Wednesday 9 May 2012

The Collegium met at the Delhi Urban Arts Commission on Friday, the 27th of April 2012. The meeting was attended by Ashish Ganju, Sanjay Bharadwaj, Nirmal Kulkarni, Rohit Gulati and Madhav Raman.
Various issues were discussed:
  1. The discussion initially delved upon the perception, by theoreticians and practitioners alike, that the very nature and structure of (modernist) architectural training, practice and theory prevent it from resonating with deeper concerns of the human condition.
  1. Views were also exchanged on the motivations and extents of investments by influential patron-clients, plutocrats and captains of industry in exploring criticality in architectural design for large commissions. The missing link between perceived design quality and critically motivated architectural design was also considered. The need, therefore, to demonstrate critical alternatives in design to the commissioners of large architectural projects was also discussed.
  1. Dovetailing the above with the ongoing conversation on encouraging criticality in architectural discourse, views were expressed on expanding the canvas of thought beyond critical writing to creating critically motivated designs. To this end, Sanjay Bharadwaj proposed initiating an ideas competition which revisits large architectural commissions that have already been built but the criticality of whose design is contentious. The brief for the proposed competition would be recreated through spatial, programmatic, volumetric and statutory analysis of the existing architecture but pointed in the direction of criticality. The need for partnering with an existing competition portal for this exercise was also discussed. Sanjay has kindly agreed to take the lead on this and will share progress on this front at the next meeting.
  1. The next meeting was proposed and set for 01 June 2012 at the Delhi Urban Arts Commission, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi. A confirmatory mail with exact time will be circulated closer to the date.
-Madhav Raman

Monday 13 February 2012

Why Don't Architects have a Voice?

There were many reasons for initiating the Architecture Collegium. Perhaps the primary motive for this group to come together was a concern about the marginalization of the architectural profession in the day-to-day life of civil society.
If we examine our recent past we find that this was not always the case. In newly independent India, the Central Government invited Le Corbusier to design a whole new city, and this led to the establishment of the Capital Project Office, in which architects played a pivotal role. Throughout the 1950’s the building of Chandigarh became a model enterprise, and the very special role of architects in this endeavor was brought into the mainstream of public consciousness.
Up to the 1970’s architects were well-respected professionals in the public eye. The Architects Act was passed in Parliament in 1972. It may be noted that even up to date architects are one of only four professions which are governed by a Central Act; the other three being advocates, medical practitioners, and accountants.
Up to the 1980’s the most significant architectural activity was promoted and sponsored by the Central Government, and architects were well regarded as thought leaders in the building sector. Major public institutions were being established in all parts of the country, and architects were commissioned to design these projects. However, the number of architects who were nominated for such commissions was very small, and they belonged to a generation which has more or less passed away. They have left behind a legacy of architecturally coherent public buildings in different parts of the country.
It is in the 1990’s that the building industry begins to undergo significant changes. With the liberalization of the economy, the demand for modern infrastructure increased, and in the next decade or two this requirement has changed the face of the building industry. The quantum jump in public expenditure on infrastructure has clearly been outside the anticipation or imagination of the architectural profession. How many architects are aware that leading international market research organizations are projecting an expenditure of 1.2 trillion US dollars on urban infrastructure in India in the next 2 decades? The scope of such a magnitude of public works in urban areas has not been understood by our profession, since we do not see in print or hear on the airwaves the thoughts of architects on how such expenditure can be directed for the benefit of the built environment in human terms.
That we are not able to respond to the challenge and be heard in the public domain is a matter of grave concern. The opportunities in this sector have been seized by what can only be described as an invisible cartel of senior/retired bureaucrats and retired chief engineers of public undertakings, who have streamlined the process of selection of architects and consultants for public projects in such a way that the commissions only go to professionals of dubious merit who work under the sway of the job- awarding cartel. Whereas this ensures a closed loop for siphoning off public funds for private gain, it also severely limits the scope of good design which could benefit the general public.
During the last two decades there has also been greatly accelerated expenditure on building and infrastructure development in the private sector. In this sector the methodology for awarding work has been worked out to benefit the large transnational architectural firms at the expense of the national professionals, however brilliant or competent. Thus, for talented, serious and well- meaning Indian architects striving to share in the task of nation-building, the future is bleak.
Given this scenario, it is not altogether surprising that architects have lost their voice in the public domain. Those architects, who have the energy and enthusiasm to buck the general trend and try to rise above the grim reality, are forced to match the unequal competition by the use of hyperbole and caricature to claim their share of the public imagination. Such a response is bound to be counter-productive in the long run, and even in the short term can hardly be of benefit to the general public. Thus the architectural profession, or at least those members of it who can claim continuity with the architectural leaders of an earlier generation, are today rendered speechless while they labor  like Sisyphus to push the rock of their creative talent to the peak, only to find that the rock rolls down the moment it reaches the top.
The challenge before us in this Collegium is to find the collective will and energy to make a concerted effort at bringing about systemic change in the infrastructure sector, however hard or impossible the task may appear to be. I believe we have enough talented and serious minded architects among our midst to take on this task. We have only to learn how to work together in a sustained manner. In any case it is time we made a start.  

MN Ashish Ganju
February 2012

A paper presented at the meeting of the 10th February, 2010.

Saturday 7 January 2012

Why don't architects have a voice?

At the next meeting of the Architecture Collegium, Mr.M.N.Ashish Ganju will be discussing and presenting a paper on the topic. 

The talk will be held on February 10th, 2012 (Friday) at 6:30PM at the Delhi Urban Arts Commission Office (DUAC), Upper Ground Floor, Core 6A, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi.

This will be the first of a series of short papers and talks every month organised by the Collegium at the DUAC. All talks are free and open to the public, and everyone is invited to attend and participate in the debate.

Wednesday 14 December 2011

Gurgaon in Motion

by Rohan Kalyan

Tuesday 6 December 2011

Mangarbani Sacred Forest Walk

Images from the guided walk of the Mangarbani sacred forest at If you have pics you'd like to add, please email us at architecture.collegium(at)

Monday 5 December 2011

Mangar Bani Sacred Forest - Guided walk

If you would like to go for the guided walk of the endangered Mangar Bani sacred forest (Aravali range off the Gurgaon-Faridabad road) on Sunday, December 18th - please send an email to Savita Punde to register. If you don't have her address, email us at architecture.collegium(at) for registration.

Please forward this to anyone else you know who may be interested. The plan is to meet at 9:30AM that morning outside the TERI Main Gate and proceed together from there.

The Times of India article about Mangar Bani is available here -

The other article that Savita forwarded to us titled 'Unhappy Bani' is available here -

Thursday 1 December 2011

Mangar Bani Walk & Ideas Competition

Savita Punde to organise a guided tour of the Mangarbani sacred forest on the Gurgaon-Faridabad road. This walk will be on December 18th, Sunday.

A brief can then be proposed for an IDEAS Design competition for the forest. A selection of the ideas will be chosen by the panel. The Collegium will try to invite key people from the Ministry of Environment and HUDA to be on the panel. The top chosen entries will be compiled and published by the Collegium.

The brief will be simple and the main idea will be how to design around the forest without touching it at all. Since HUDA has recently changed the land-use around the forest to develop it, it is this development that will be the focus of the brief. If the competition charges an entry fee, that can be used for prizes, or sponsorship is also an option.

Wednesday 30 November 2011

Open House Saturday: Delhi & Gurgaon

Tentatively proposed.
Open House Saturday/ Delhi: March 3rd, 2012
Guided tours of
                                 i.            India Habitat Centre
                               ii.            Alliance Francaise
                              iii.            IIC or UN Offices
                             iv.            INTACH

Open House Saturday/ Gurgaon: March 10th, 2012
Guided tours of
i.                     Devi Art Foundation
ii.                   Sandstone Crest
iii.                  HUDA City Centre

Tuesday 29 November 2011

Programme of Architectural Reviews

Every month, one review of a recently built building will be submitted by the Collegium to the magazine who will publish it in a special section. The first year (12 months – 12 buildings) will focus on Delhi & North India.

Each review will be about 1800-2000 words with 1-2 photographs of the building. Prospective reviewers can take a personal point of view or discuss it from an academic/ theoretical point of view. The review can take the form of a discussion between 2 reviewers in the format of the Indian Express ‘Idea Exchange’ series. In fact, it can also be submitted to the Idea Exchange for publication.

List of buildings proposed for review
i)             MCD Headquarters
ii)           Khalsa Heritage Museum
iii)         Akshardham, Delhi
iv)         French Information Centre at French Embassy
v)           HUDA City Centre
vi)         American Institute of Indian Studies, Gurgaon
vii)       CBI Headquarters at the CGO, Lodi Estate
viii)     DMRC Headquarters (Behind Shankar Road)
ix)         Royal Bank of Scotland building, DLF Phase 3
x)           New Indian Oil Building, BRTS
xi)         Kingdom of Dreams
xii)       BSNL Building, Janpath
xiii)     Devi Art Foundation, Gurgaon
xiv)    Sandstone Crest, Gurgaon
xv)      Airtel Building, NH8

If you would like to review one of these, or any other structure/space, OR would like one of your own structures reviewed, please write to us at architecture.collegium(at)

Wednesday 2 November 2011

Activity: Open House weekend & seminar

Members of the public will be invited to visit and understand a collection of architect-designed buildings in the Lodi Road area of Delhi. All these buildings will be open to the public all weekend. The Open House Weekend is tentatively scheduled for February 25th-26th when the weather is still good. The event will include

a)    Guided walk around the area both days with a knowledgeable professional
b)   Volunteers or firms’ representatives at each building to explain the building & concept etc. to visitors
c)    Seminar evening: Presentations & Discussions on the understanding of design in the popular mind

How you can participate 
a)   Help secure permissions for the building
b)   Contact architects/ firms to get involved and send someone to explain their building
c)   Be a volunteer at a building to help and discuss it with visitors
d)   Volunteer to help with the guided walks
e)   Provide assistance with making a map and, maybe, a small brochure
f)    Encourage colleagues, students and everyone else you know to attend 

email: architecture.collegium (at)

Tuesday 1 November 2011

Activity: Architectural Reviews published in Mainstream Media

At the last meeting of the Architectural Collegium, it was felt that there was a lack of critiques/ reviews/ analysis of architecture in India - both within the profession and among the public in general. The aim of this project is to choose 12 contemporary buildings (one for every month) in India and have them reviewed by Indian architects. A review will be published each month in a well known mainstream magazine or national daily starting January 2012. It is hoped that the reviews will also be translated into regional languages for wider distribution.

How you can participate 
a)   Interested members are requested to email a list of contemporary buildings in India that they think should be critiqued.
b)   Email the Collegium if you would like to write a critique and which building you would be interested in discussing

List of buildings & reviewers will be finalised at the next meeting.

email: architecture.collegium (at)

Monday 31 October 2011

Activity: Monograph on Architectural Education in India

Interested members are requested to email a short opinion piece on this topic. It does not need to be a researched article and even a 500 word paragraph will do. Please include a short biography of the author. Everyone’s write-up will then be compiled in a small publication that will be freely distributed and published on the web. Members can photocopy and circulate the document within their institutions/ among colleagues etc.

Some issues that can be addressed (among others) 
a)     Change of format from a 6month training within the 5 year course to a 1 year internship at the end of it 
b)    CoA proposal to have an additional registration process after the 5 year degree that includes written exams & interview 
c)     The need for practising architects in teaching (attached article from BD Magazine discussing the pro & con of this topic in the UK
d)      Is it necessary to have a higher degree to be able to teach architecture 
e)      The entry of foreign education institutions into India and its impact on quality, research and affordability of professional education including Architecture etc.

How you can participate 
Email your opinion piece & short (2-3line) biography on this topic to the Collegium by February 15th 2012. All inputs received by this date will be compiled and formatted into one simple publication. It is hoped that it will be ready and distribution can start by March 01, 2012. It will be freely available online – perhaps on a blog. The blog can be set up to include more opinions and issues. This collection of thoughts will be sent to the CoA, the main regulatory body for Architectural education in India. An effort will also be made to get it published in an architectural magazine. 

email: architecture.collegium (at)

Sunday 30 October 2011

Activity: Developing a network of media contacts

All of the Architecture Collegium's activities focus on stimulating debate, and encouraging it as widely as possible – even outside the profession. It has been previously felt that the discussions that happen within the Collegium and other forums stay limited to that event or meeting. It is extremely important to ensure that this is no longer the case. The Collegium hopes to disseminate all of its presentations, articles & debates widely through both word of mouth and media. It is necessary to build up a network of contacts in print and other media who can help with this.

How you can participate 
a)      If you have any contacts within the media, please (with their consent) forward their details to the Collegium
b)      If you are in the media and are interested in our activities, please do email us.

email: architecture.collegium (at)

Saturday 29 October 2011

Activity: Presentation & Article on the Bidding process/ Corruption

At the meeting, it was discussed how architects are awarded projects in India. The conversation started with how foreign architects/ firms in recent times have appeared to bypass the regular tender bid/ competition process.

However a deeper problem lies in the bidding process itself where the judging is based on financial quotes. Related problems include undercutting fees, going overtime/overbudget to make money, expecting cutbacks from contractors, bribing middlemen to secure projects etc. (The CWG games exemplified all of these problems)

The Central Vigilance Commission actually lists 8 different ways of awarding projects of which submitting financial bids is just one. It is worthwhile to study the other ways and make a proposal as to how this process can be changed or improves.

The presentation will be made at an open forum that will include all members of the AEC sector (Architecture Engineering Construction) especially Builders, Contractors & Real Estate Agents. It is believed that there needs to be a discussion & interaction on the issue between various members in the sector and not just limited to architects.

The view was expressed at the meeting of how architects can be perceived as living in their ‘ivory towers’ and how no suggestions about changing the profession will occur or be sustained unless other stake-holders are involved too.It is hoped that the related article will also be published in the mainstream media, or at the very least, in an architectural magazine.

How you can participate 
a)   Interested members are requested to email their thoughts on this topic to the Collegium, for possible inclusion in the final article

b)      Email the Collegium if you are interested in writing or collaborating on this article

Date of Presentation and Author/ Deadline for the article will be finalised at next meeting.

email: architecture.collegium (at)

Friday 28 October 2011

Activity: Discussion on what constitutes an ‘Ethical’ Architectural practice in India

At the last meeting, the possibility was discussed of constituting a Guild or Architectural brand wherein all member professionals/ firms who participate agree to follow a charter of ethical principles. This can include issues like

a)      Undercutting fees to get projects
b)      Participation in corruption
c)      Addressing sustainability issues through design
d)      Managing health and safety issues on project sites etc.

As the ‘brand’ developed, clients & contractors would know when they approached a member firm - that they will be getting a certain quality of services. However before anything else, it is important to have a discussion as to what constitutes an ‘Ethical’ Architect or Practice. It will then be possible to make a list of issues that may be included in the charter.

How you can participate 
Email the Collegium the points that you think need to be discussed/ included if such a charter were to be made 

email: architecture.collegium (at)