We need a local architecture college to give flip to our architecture and upgrade the skills of upcoming architects, writes Syed Ather Qayoom.
Architecture is a profession still developing in India. Day by day this profession is getting more and more recognition by people. Times have changed and with that people's outlook towards architecture has also changed to a greater extent. Today people are spending money on their homes and offices which they would not have done ten years back. There was a time when houses in Kashmir were designed by masons and carpenters. But influx of architects in the state has changed that scenario and today people consult architects for anything and everything. Architecture is that kind of profession which is based more on observation and some common sense. That is the reason there are very few text books in architecture and more reference books. It would surprise many that the most famous architect of this century, Laurie Backer who settled in India and was very famous in low cost housing never went to any college for architectural education.
But this is an age of professionals and college education has become must. College education teaches you those skills and techniques which an architect uses in his practice. Making drawings on paper has become obsolete and that has been replaced with computers which gives more accuracy and saves time. College education in India is still not at its best. We still use books written by international authors which teach British or American standards. That has to be changed. Many of these books teach their techniques and methods of construction which are not used here in India. And when we compare Kashmir with the rest of India in architectural education, everything changes. Each and every argument loses its ground. And not because of the techniques and methods of construction, but because of climate and culture. These are the two most important things that define the architecture of a region. Kashmir has a cold climate and the way we design our buildings here is altogether different from the rest of India. Because of hot and humid climate, the buildings in India are more extrovert and here the buildings are more introvert. This is something that can be taught in architectural colleges. In architecture colleges outside Kashmir, a student is being taught ways and means of keeping sunlight out of the building because the weather is hot and humid and if you design a building in Kashmir, one has to follow totally opposite method and try to expose as much of the living area as possible towards the path of sun so that the house receives as much sunlight as possible in winter in order to keep the house warm. This makes a huge difference. Even if we talk about the construction techniques outside Kashmir, they differ to some extent. In most of the colleges in India, rarely they teach to use a sloping roof in the design. No doubt techniques are taught in technical subjects, but it is more important to learn how to implement them.
Architects in Kashmir with knowledge about our traditional architecture have become extinct or if there are some, they are few in number. Architects here are following in general what people want, whether that is right or wrong is a different issue. An architect has to make aware the people about the right kind of architecture that would be applicable. Learning general architecture is a must, but with that learning the local architecture is equally important. We cannot follow different styles of architecture with our eyes closed. An architecture college in Kashmir would do wonders to this heaven on earth. Along with the general architecture, one can learn the local architecture and tomorrow these architects can give us better houses to live in. The new kind of architecture that is developing in Kashmir is and will be always debatable. A UN report after the Kashmir earthquake on the guidelines for buildings here clearly states that the best method of construction for this earthquake zone is the traditional architecture of Kashmir. A local architecture college in Kashmir could make the upcoming architects more aware of these issues that would be beneficial to the whole society in future.
(The writer is a Srinagar based Architect and can be mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org)