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We Architects deserve the supreme court decision on Architectural practice

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Manish Mishra
Manish Mishra
Architect, Teacher and entrepreneur

We have been so thankful for the Architect’s act that we have adopted dutiful silence as a mark of submission of fraternity and we accept anything and everything that “Council of Architecture” throws at us with absolute indifference and silence.

Council of Architecture has two jobs i.e. to maintain a register of Architects and to regulate the education of Architects. Practicing Architects until the Supreme court’s decision were indifferent to daily affairs of COA but since apex court’s decision that only “Architect” title is protected, everything that we thought belongs to us is up for grabs.

The very premise of education that all the rigor and time of 5 years is just to keep a title does not seem justified anymore? Where things have gone wrong? To answer this question first we must answer a few more questions? The politicians who take decisions at COA, are answerable to whom? Is there any accountability for wrong policy decisions? 

Who decides and influences the policy decisions at Council, for example, political parties have public election manifesto? When things go wrong, what is at stake for those behind wrong decisions?

Supreme court’s decision that anybody can practice Architecture has shocked many young Architects, but our newly elected President has already said that it does not impact much on employability of Architects since they have superior training, regulations, etc.? Since many Senior Architects have their fate sealed with their practice and career, they see it as a minor niggle, but looking from the perspective of young graduates, it may give them a midlife crisis by robbing off all the confidence they may have in the profession they chose for themselves.

Suddenly young graduates realized all that they have is the title “Architect” where commoners many times pronounce them as “Engineer”. Irony? Effect of the supreme court’s decision on norms governing professional’s qualification in building bye-laws, NBC still remains to be seen.

The Decision-makers at the Council of Architecture, are state and central govt. nominees, IIA elected individuals, and elected heads of institutions. Elected members from IIA are supposed to be representing the practicing Architects, while Govt. Nominees are either Govt. employed Architects or influential Architects nominated as a state representative in Council.

All these people then elect President and Vice President and other five members which constitutes the seven-members Executive committee which is the apex decision making body of COA responsible for all the decisions in the Council notwithstanding the President has a great role in steering the committee.

Where things have gone wrong?

Most of the decisions Council takes are related to the education policy of Council, while practice-related matters are routine work, except the court cases that Council has been drawn into or has willingly taken up to protect its interest. Most of the concerns that practicing fraternity has raised with the council are related to fake practices or misuse of “Title” and with the apex court’s decision, all such complaints will now directly go to the dustbin, instead of waiting in some file.

Policing of education matters interests Council most because it is the seed that causes the tree called Architect and services provided by it. Education also interests council most because it is easily its best source of income and the Council enjoys a lot of power in overseeing these institutions.

After the enactment of the 1972 Architect’s act, in 1983 minimum standards of architecture education regulations came into existence and till now act has not been amended by the Parliament, so legally 1983 norms remain in force till today.

Despite that Council has amended and floated regulations at various intervals which they justified as appropriate. In all these amended regulations the prime focus remained with balancing the qualifications of Architecture faculties teaching in various institutes all across India.

Every amendment in these norms remained majorly about faculty qualification with the infrastructure required in relation to the intake of institutes. These norms seemed to be inspired and driven by stock markets that every time revised they must only increase and lead to a higher value than last revision, also meanwhile COA kept on granting affiliations to more and more institutions and intake thereby generating a wide gap between qualified teachers available and required.

This lead to a degree hopping spree, first it was about the master’s degree and later Ph.D.’s became fad since COA started recommending Ph.D. as one of the requirements.

The majority of practitioners were left to their fate, assuming mostly they have a limited role of visiting faculty at the institutes. These teachers were driven by the new demands COA raised each year and institutes offering masters degrees and Ph.D.’s got their new customers, the stock market of Architecture education was rising.

All this while curriculum of B.Arch. was rarely revised and made relevant to changing dynamics of practice, so all the studio research was outsourced to degrees of faculties, and assumptions were made that these brand new degrees were enough to ensure innovations in classrooms.

Architectural education was now taking its worst turn, the gap between practice and education became even wider and research in Masters and even in Ph.D.’s were only for showcase and never to see the litmus test of publication. All the Architecture books were anyway supplied by foreign authors and the English mode of education was ever more convenient, almost like a nexus.

The teachers were now behaving like employees of Council and not independent thinkers, they were overqualified job seekers and nothing else. The disconnect of practice and education was now much more prominent and showing its impact in practice as well. The disease was fast spreading.

Everyone was docile with no opinions. Mediocrity begets mediocrity became true. Who would question the powerful Council now? And this is exactly where it all started taking a turn towards worst? Mediocrity in thought process was now apparent in elected leadership of Council, now they were looking for a villain for this downfall. They concluded, of course! it’s the institutions.

Now they were looking to artificially close the institutions by controlling the number of students applying in B.Arch. Degree each year, a simple aptitude test happening each day at institutes as per the convenience of students was reinvented as grand test at national scale happening only once, not realizing the calendar was already packed with other entrance tests. This lead to a clash of dates and friendly fire between examinations. 

We were staring at a major crisis now, most of the institutions all across India were Vacant, some scored zero admissions, not able to withstand pressure policy makers resorted to innovative solutions at its best, the decision-makers decided to increase the number of tests to twice in a year and also decided to sell the confidential data of students, solution at last!

In the NATA brochure the President himself explained that NATA is an Aptitude test and despite that he failed to realize, it is so for a reason. Who will explain to them now, Council had successfully reduced the number of brains to zero, especially in its most prized possession, the teachers.

And then came Supreme court decision. 

The President announced, its no matter at all, even though inside we all knew, we have become hollow. Webinars after webinars were arranged to assuage our concerns.

We all were at fault, at least we could question the past actions and decisions, but the silence was golden, everyone was busy fulfilling their duties, be it academics or practice, no one was free or interested enough to question and those who raised questions were patronized into silence by loyalists and courtiers or trying to be.

All of us who gave our fate in hands of those without even questioning our contracts with them are responsible.

Least we could do was to raise questions and demand clear answers.

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Manish Mishra
Manish Mishra
Architect, Teacher and entrepreneur
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