Have you ever wondered why a few people practicing the art of architecture never refer to themselves as architects and some insist on the title of architects prefixed to their names at every juncture? As the field of Architecture becomes increasingly pronounced in our country, one knows that an architecture degree is necessary to become an architect but, according to the Supreme Court’s recent ruling, is neither necessary nor enough. Confused? As per the Architect’s Act, 1972, a person may call themselves an architect only after the Council of Architecture registers them under the said Act. An architectural degree may give you the skills and the knowledge to become an architect but does not give you the law’s acceptance.
Architecture has been one of the oldest professions in the world. Historically, architects were also painters, sculptors, engineers, poets, thinkers, philosophers, etc., and the list goes on. Michelangelo, the architect of St. Peter’s Basilica, who also painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, was known as a sculptor, painter, architect, and poet.
Buckminster Fuller who invented the geodesic dome, despite being expelled from Harvard twice, aspired to be known as a ‘comprehensive anticipatory design scientist’ according to the Buckminster Fuller Institute. Frank Lloyd Wright did not hold a professional degree in architecture, and he needs no introduction as the architect of America. The late Satish Gujral designed many renowned buildings in India and abroad despite having no degree in architecture and is known as the Leonardo Da Vinci of India.
The funneling effect of a progressive society has been to narrow down and break-up large, collaborative, and inclusive subjects into micro subjects, focusing on every part of the whole and developing the process as an individual achievement. Much like atoms bonding together to form a molecule, the nature of which is defined by the association or disassociation of the atoms themselves. It is good and bad at the same time. Good in how every micro-subject gets a focused involvement that leads to innovation in the parts that make up the whole. Bad in how it can lead to forming micro-identities and egos that use their experience in the parts as leverage necessary to make up the whole.
“Architect, the generalist who speculates on how the pieces could fit together in more advantageous ways.” – Charles Correa
Architecture encompasses a wide variety of things, unlike its counterpart professions like medicine or law. It is the most general specialty that one can imagine. As Charles Correa said, in his book, The New Landscape, “Architecture is an agent of change… which is why a leader like Mahatma Gandhi is called the architect of the nation. Neither the engineer nor the dentist, not the historian. But the architect, i.e., the generalist who speculates on how the pieces could fit together in more advantageous ways. One who is concerned with what might be.”
When a person aspires to become an architect, it is a part of a personal journey of the individual in the expression of thoughts, feelings, and his/her life’s exploration. It does not begin with an architectural degree or career; it’s usually already there within the individual. Architecture is only the way one expresses themselves to others and responds to society. Art, design, beauty, engineering, innovation are all integral to architecture, and creating architecture is not an individual feat.
“Creativity is the greatest rebellion in existence,” – Osho
The life-cycle of the current societally accepted architect could start from an architecture degree after high school to the registration in the institutions to get certificates or licenses to finally a prefix to one’s name and a board outside the office to proclaim oneself as an architect.
Is this when one becomes an architect? Some may argue that I’ve missed the crucial role of a mentor that comes in when one interns for another architect, to learn and absorb the skill in its true essence. The reality of architectural pedagogy in India is that it has transformed itself from a teacher-disciple format to a more technical problem-solving format, which is why we find many architecture schools in technological universities than in humanities-related universities.
In all this confusion, where does an architect stand? How can one define oneself as an architect and claim the title and make it one’s own, synonymous with one’s personality and work?
When Brenda Laurel said, “A design isn’t finished until someone is using it”, it gives the impression that any design is made for people or for life, to make it better, easier, and more valuable. When people become part of a design by using it, it becomes complete, having fulfilled its purpose.
What then defines the purpose of an architect? When an authority in societal complacency gives the title of an architect to an individual, does that fulfill the architect’s purpose? Was the climax of the entire life’s story of an architect to culminate into a degree, or a license to be called as an architect in this exclusive cultural melodrama? The limited means of a society can not define the metaphysical aspirations of an architect.
“The architect represents the mighty act of will, the will which moves mountains, the intoxication of the strong will, which demands artistic expression.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
An individual can become an architect for others in all the established ways defined by many career guides and self-proclaimed education gurus. But an architect can become an architect for him/herself, only when he/she discovers his/her purpose and fulfills it, and keeps fulfilling it through his/her life’s work.
I remember when Naseeruddin Shah’s character in ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’ asks his son, played by Farhan Akhtar, ‘writing copy is what you do for others, tell me what you write for yourself?’ I believe an architect must question him/herself, no matter what point in the life-cycle they may be, what is it I do, or want to do for myself? And when they find the answer to that and can fulfill that which they became architects for, is when they truly own that title of ‘Architect’.
Easier said than done, I can feel you, but then, who said any of this was easy?