Where do architecture students spend most of their time? Probably, not at home. It is a journey of being lost that one dives into when they decide they want to pursue architecture. The workspaces become the means of entertainment, rest, escape and some of the best experiences during the five long years of education. The life of any space is in the beings that occupy it, be it the hustle-bustle of the people, the foliage of the trees, or the chirping birds.
The School of Architecture at CEPT is one such building marvel that makes no distinction between its various users; it challenges all the hierarchies, blurs every boundary between functions, and welcomes everyone with open arms. The best example of this is the relationship between the people and the dogs at CEPT. Dogs are an undeniable part of any architecture student’s life who has spent some time here. You might find dogs responding to dedicated names, names which were kept when they were born by students who have graduated by now, but the identity remains and is passed on. The ‘dog culture’ is beyond the understanding of many but if you look closely, it is just an anomalous and humorous bond between the users of the same space. It is a tool that helps students learn empathy, sharing, and drives them to look beyond themselves while designing spaces.
These dogs are those beings who move around from one studio to another in the sequence of meeting their favorite people, wagging their tails, waiting to be fed, and hugged. Some students might even take offense if you disrespectfully shoo them away from your desk; in fact, there is a dog club to ensure the well-being and treatment of the dogs! These are not just any dogs. They know their deal. On their tour of the building during the day, they are careful of the studio sessions going on. Sensing that everyone is busy, they will casually walk around the discussion space, maybe sit in the circle for a minute or two, and head towards the next studio, instead of their usual attention-seeking activities.
Humans are funny. They generate a situation to only complain about it later. With all the overwhelming love for dogs, many dog lovers let them sleep under their tables and feed them inside the studios, spoiling the dogs to beg for food from whoever is eating around. Much of this flow of activities is a result of the open spaces and an easy transition between the outside and the inside. It is a manifestation of the architect’s vision about spaces that encourage interaction of a passerby with not just the people, but also the nature and space.
“Design is nothing but a humble understanding of materials, a natural instinct for solutions and respect for nature.”- Architect of SA building at CEPT, Prof. B.V. Doshi
Monsoon semesters are the most pleasant ones as every year there are new, adorable, and extremely cute puppies on different parts of the land. They catch everybody’s attention. They are named; they are fed by almost everyone who sees them, people taking turns to play with them in their laps. The real conversation begins with the onset of the spring semester, when they are teething. Several general body meetings happen with students raising their opinions concerning the damage dogs cause to models and materials. Many heated conversations about destroyed properties due to the dogs staying in the studios overnight, thoughts on redesigning campus dustbins and stands along with many unanswered questions about whether to keep these dogs out of the campus for good take place. One such havoc was generated when a dog called ‘Simba’ was locked inside a studio at night. What students found in the morning was all their hard work of 4 months into bits of brown paper. Who was to be held responsible for this? What is the permanent solution? Is it right to kick them out of their own homes? The semester goes by, the dogs stay; the conversations eventually fade, until a new cycle begins.
With the country getting hit by the pandemic, things have shifted online. There is no more chaos which always fills up the space with stories; the campus remains lifeless with only a few watchmen and the gang of dogs. This is a situation that has never happened before, never thought about, never hoped for. Even though there was some resistance earlier, after the damage caused by dogs, everyone, along with the ones who wanted them kicked out wondered how the dogs would be doing during this time and if they would find them there when they returned.
Might make one muse over how the relationship of the dogs with their space is so committed, that if you visit the SA building even now, you will find them sleeping on the desks like before, lying peacefully with their legs stretched out in the Sagara basement, maybe looking down onto you from the balcony of the studio. They don’t let go of their homes; another lesson of ownership that we learn from the dogs. The pandemic turned the tables around and while students are now prohibited to step inside the premises, the dogs lie on that ramp, soaking the sun and feeling the downpour of the first monsoon waiting to share their space again!