The service of architecture is not to a client but to society. This is one of the fundamental premises that shapes architectural training at the KRVIA. to be able to think critically about spatial production and evolve skills and tools to participate in it through an ethical framework. In other words, we are interested in shaping the ‘Self’ of an architect. This is the crux of architectural education at the KRVIA.
Manoj Parmar- Director
The B.Arch. program at KRVIA.
The intention of the B.Arch course in architecture at the KRVIA is to create professionals who are able to participate proactively in the processes of improving our built environment. It places the act of Architecture within the larger domain of the production of space. Architecture therefore is seen not merely a skill that is imbibed by a student to apply in the world outside, but is rather is a way of positioning ones role in the world, and the provision of tools and skills to participate in transforming the built environment.
Thus, rather than creating individuals that can uncritically engage with the forces of transformation that we see around us, the school helps students through tools of critical thinking to consider the profession and its role it plays in the world, and make choices for their own practice accordingly.
Course Structure and Components
The main components of the structure of the course in an architecture course typically take the form of three kinds of delivery mechanisms – the Studio, Lecture, Seminar Courses and Electives; while the course content itself is divided across three interlinked streams- Design Studios, Technology Courses and Humanities Courses. While the latter two are imagined to be places where specialised knowledge is gained by the student, the former is meant to be the place where the student demonstrates proficiency in the “Act of Design”. There is also a Study Trip programme that runs through four years of the school.
1. Design Studio
The act of design is an act of performance. The studio can be seen as the space where the performance is rehearsed through the design of specific actions that the learner is asked to engage with. One of the main determinants for the course is to imagine the act of design as one that conjoins analytical and abstract thinking along with an embodied action. As mentioned earlier, too often these are seen in their own individualised compartments. It perhaps is more useful to imagine the two in a dialectical relationship within which the students through performing the act of design explores the space between. It is this perpetual and continuous meditation and exploration of the relationship or ‘riyaaz’ through which the act of design is embedded in the learner. What this implies is that every studio exercise concerns both the act of conceptualisation and the act of resolution. The parameters that are set for each studio can be pitched based on the position of the learner, the levels of expectation can also be understood based on the position within the learning arc that the learner occupies. However, the act of design has to be seen as one that is not a mere determinant of an abstraction devoid of the real.
Through the Technology Model, there is an attempt to create a variety of different modes of engagement of the learner with the subject matter. They include:
3. History, Humanities and Theory Courses
These courses serve to create a background of knowledge within which the act of design takes place. They expose the students to new concepts, ways of thinking, specialised skills that can contribute to the overall development of the student. They need not dovetail smoothly with the studio space at all times. They can be spaces that support or challenge some of the presumptions of the studio. They largely follow three intersecting trajectories across five years:
The humanities aims to establish the criteria to evaluate architecture for what it does, and to test the profession’s claim to validity in public culture. Architecture is understood broadly, as the built landscape – not simply as significant works by significant architects, These courses will encourage students to investigate the built landscape through the social relations of spatial production.
The course intends to inculcate a habit of reflexivity, to open out the critical/dialectical relationship between knowing and doing.The theory of design course will frame architecture as an expanded cultural practice, that engages and borrows from ideas across disciplines. It will frame the act of architecture as a reflexive critical practice and theory as critical and propositional endeavour. It is the place for meditation, discussion and debate about language concerning architecture- visual, spatial, verbal as well as written. The attempt is to create a space for conversation about the dialectical relationships between the idea of ‘architecture’- a disciplinary question concerned with what the domain of architecture is, what it’s identity is, and what its responsibilities and ethical role is; and that of the ‘self’ of the ‘architect’ – a philosophical / psychological question that is concerned with what the particular skills of this profession are, what it’s role is and how does this person place herself in the world.
It aims to engender in students a capacity to think conceptually to enable new ideas and approaches to emerge. The course will expose students to works of art, literature, architecture and ideas through history, to engender an agility of thinking conceptually across and through traditional disciplinary boundaries. Within the course there is an attempt to challenge the idea that practice and thought are separable – that there can be theory that has no concrete relevance; or that there can be practice that exists outside of thought. The attempt is to allow students to explore the relationship between thought and practice in cultural works, but through the particularity of the here and now. Unlike the history course- it will use a comparative and conceptual framework rather than a strictly historical one.
The History of Architecture course at the KRVIA primarily attempts to enable the student to ingest notions of one’s own cultural identity. The attempt is to understand history not as a sequence of haphazard events but one that is made by people in the satisfaction of their daily needs. The course goes beyond the taxonomic method of categorising and describing the physical aspects of the historical object to include the purpose of its making.
While history is traditionally presented as a collection of facts and events that have transpired across time and place, it is pertinent to equip students on existing information and knowledge around these interpretations of facts. The emphasis therefore is on the understanding, analysis and relevance of this information in contemporary times, which will help them in gauging the society and context in which they live and operate.
The objective of the course is to bridge the distance between history as a construction of cultural identities and history as a material expression of the built object. The course adopts the modes of production as a chronological system to discuss the ideas that lead to a production of architecture. History is thus, seen and discussed as an understanding of processes – an intersection of belief, technology and social structure.
Four stages – the agrarian, the mercantile, the industrial and the service economies are considered, to place the study of the history of architecture across five years at the KRVIA. It is imagined that the first three years will place themselves within the agrarian, mercantile and industrial economies. Parallel to the history course the Theory of Design course of the second, third and fourth years explores the history of modernity and architecture up to contemporary times.
The History of Architecture course in the first three years corresponds to the larger pedagogic structure of theory and design learning – the Spatial, Conceptual, and Critical aspects. These aspects are mobilized through various spectrums of thoughts and particularly the simultaneous geographical section. The attempt will be to dissect architectural history through various spectrums of thoughts and responses.
4. Elective Courses
These are spaces for the faculty and the students to explore new areas of interest. These can also allow the students to see the role of architecture within a broader cultural context. They can take the form of trans-disciplinary explorations, specialisations or parallel interests that can enrich the understanding of the student.
5. Study Trips
Parallel to the three primary streams mentioned above is a Study Trip Programme where students are taken to different contexts and asked to engage with them through the act of observation, analysis and representation. These are essential spaces for students to learn about other realities within the country, and also allow the school to discover and create knowledge about the varying histories and contemporary realities of different places within the country. These study trips provide an essential space for explorations in architectural ideas that take different forms from the first year to the senior years.
6. Other co-curricular spaces
Besides the core academic courses mentioned above at the KRVIA there is also an attempt to make many co-curricular spaces for blurring the boundary between the city and academy, along with interdisciplinary and trans-disciplinary explorations. They include the Exchange Programmes, The Research Cell, Weekly Encounters. The Kamla Raheja Memorial Lecture Series, the Publication Cell, etc. These are spaces whose concerns feed into the Academic space.