What, Why and Where of architecture

Prof. Anand Pandit, Professor at NMIMS Balwant Sheth School of Architecture and a Practicing Architect shares his thoughts on what is Architecture, why would mean the process and where obviously would mean place.

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Prof. Anand Pandit
Anand Pandit, Professor at NMIMS Balwant Sheth School of Architecture and a Practicing Architect

One of the commonest questions that was asked of me while I was a student or a professional now, what is an Architect? In other words what is Architecture?

Such a question would generally be followed by a statement, we know contractors build, Engineers give stability, what do you do? As a student in the year 1955 why even now sixty years later, this question is very unnerving. A sense of redundancy always Creep in. This ofcourse is not true, not as far as I am concerned. I love it to the degree that I would opt for it in my next life, if there be one.

Back to the question, what is Architecture?

To me the classical definition of ARCHITECTURE as ART and SCIENCE OF BUILDING is still valid. We need to look at it with the new found meanings of words. Art no more is something that only pleases the eye. It simultaneously provokes thoughts. It is not mear craftsmanship and skills. It is intelligent. It provokes emotions, aspirations. Emotions and aspirations are signs of life. Architecture as art is thus no more a matter of protection from inclement weather or facilitating conductions of a specific function but far beyond it. One plus one in Architecture may not become two but could be more than the Arithmetical total. Science which essentially is precise will become a tool to achieving this. It is integral to the production of architecture and not part of process of creation.

Referring to the process I am reminded of Micheal Angelo the great Roman Sculptor, despite of his great achievements, he was unhappy. What was bothering him was, what he was sculpting was humans devoid of functioning of internal organs. These to him were essential to make these sculptures more alive than dead. He thus visits morgues tear open bodies to look at the organs, get a feel of their purpose. The statues he created there after came alive. This is how the story goes. The case with VAN Gogh is no different, he died, endlessly drawing the sun flower as perceived by him. These were the processes for clearer understanding. This probably also answer the question raised by my son who was then only eight or nine year old.  Dad on one side you claim that the market is sluggish, how come than that you keep long hours at the office, may be partly though.

Process in creative Architecture is no different. Architecture is influenced by and is capable of influencing the environ in which it sits. Environ are not necessarily just the surrounding. It needs to encompass ‘n’number of things from Governance to finance , to purpose, faiths and beliefs not to undermine the occupant or the location, hundreds of other issues need to be answered to complete the process which would than enable the Architect to deal with the project under consideration. It is not just fashionable to talk of sustainability, it is not just the energy conservation as pursued by the western world, it could as well mean sustaining memory, affordability maintenance at all.  It would not be appropriate here to conduct a discourse on this. Suffice to say that we need educational institute that will train Architect who would face these new found challenges.

Parents and aspiring students are lucky today. We have over fifteen institution in this city alone which are imparting education in architecture. In 1955, when I joined Sir J. J. school of Arts was the only Institute not only in the country but a huge part of Asia and Africa. With an intake of eighty, open seats were limited to only sixty. We had to fight a strong contest. The education we received was driven by the British for their good. We were made skilled assistant. Modern Architecture is a word common in not only the fraternity of professionals but students too. I would rather call it contemporary. The way the world is changing what is modern today is likely to be absolute tomorrow. I spent next ten years after my graduation in search of this new found meaning of Architecture. Today it is available in the class room.

May be only a few schools institutes are geared up to offer this. I am happy to be associated with BSSA from its inception and be involved with its growth. This is one of the few institutes which trains student in this beautiful process of production of Architecture. I think I should call it creative Architecture. This does not mean the existence of other institute is absolute. No way, we need skilful intelligent assistants in running of the profession. Their existence is unchallengeable.    

Hopefully this little article answers the three questions that I face very regularly every year WHAT, WHY, WHERE. What to mean what is Architecture, why would mean the process, where obviously would mean place.