I woke up to this email from a student. I generally tend to read emails as soon as I notice them on my phone and many times, even reply immediately. But, for the reasons stated ahead, I delayed reading the contents of this email. Reasons, one, the subject line which sounded negative, “Random rantings”, second, it was from a student (now, I am sorry for this) and third, it was Sunday. I conveniently assumed that this student must have some complaints about some systems at the institute where he studies and I teach, or submissions, or some teacher or some new rule. But, all my assumptions proved wrong. Majorly, it was about various concerns about the profession, systems in the society and moreover the hardship that an Architecture student goes through when it comes to seeking permissions from various “authorities” to study buildings.

On behalf of the student, Pulkit Soni, who is studying Architecture, I would like to discuss and invite views (more important) from the fellow Architects, Educators, Students or whoever is reading this, on the concerns shared. Following are the contents of the email, as received.

Architecture: A Case Study

Architecture is a dynamic course, learning isn’t based just on the text books it delves deeper, farther and way beyond the scope of those bound pieces of paper. Architecture as a course and a profession is an endeavour to design the future with minimizing the mistakes of the past and yet continuing the legacy of the shared being of the human civilization. This makes precedence studies or what many of us call case study an inexorable imperative in the learning process. Most, if not all architects must have gone through these things in their college lives. They must have faced the hardship of getting permissions, visiting the place again and again, eating the architect’s or supervisor’s head for the help and get a better understanding of their design/project.

The story is largely the same as it would have been a decade ago. I feel disappointed to say that none of those who had faced these troubles have ever tried to facilitate the next generations of students of architecture. We are students not terrorists or a gang of robbers from Oceans movie series, we are not going to use the detailed studies of the buildings for figuring out the way to reach the multi billion dollar safe or execute some jewelry loot. Still in the remotest possibility, had we been a gang from Oceans movie series I am sure none of the hyped security arrangements could have stopped us from our goal. We are pretty much comfortable in being denied the study of 7, Race Course Road but the security of a small hotel or commercial complex or a group housing isn’t going to be compromised with by conducting precendence studies on them. Some people would present a different argument on a supposedly higher plane of intellect, theft of intellectual property, well I am sure asking your own conscience the question “really?” would help a lot. I don’t wish to be disrespectful or too arrogant for a student but the truth is that your design is exemplary to be studied for good or for bad but extra ordinary in certain sense. It’s a matter of pride and hence should be dealt accordingly. Going a step ahead I would say learing doesn’t end in college, the analysis of the design that the students do may be helpful in the future so instead of troubling the students in the name of security concerns or intellectual property, try and facilitate them with permissions to study, drawings or details and go ahead and ask for a copy of their assessment or rather be a part of a healthy discussion. 

The reason why I referred to asking the inner self regaring security or intellectual property concerns is quite simple and quite evindent a scene in a country like ours. X’s father is a town planner so he is able to manage the drawings, details and the permissions to study a piece of design, Y’s uncle is a renowned builder in town so she is able to manage, my dad is nothing so I require a permission from the NHAI to study a toll booth, luckily I find some Z who gets us coffee served at the same toll booth. Why are people ( including architects and builders ) not open to the idea of sharing what they did, how they did, what problems they faced, what solutions they ended up with etc. Most of the cameras ( if not all ) are meant for photographing, a grenade wouldn’t be launched on pressing the shutter. Photographing a building isn’t going to be dangerous in any way, I am doing photography for quite some time now and I can assure you that.

Still not convinced, I have a question, how annoyed are you with the process of getting permits from governments for doing a project? Must have cursed the way of working of bureaucracy a thousand times. Is the attitude of not permitting the students ( or at least not in one go) any different?

It’s a sincere request from an apparently cynical student of architecture to think about it and  bring about a change. Being a student of architecture should be a licence to study existing architecture around the world. For just this once say yes at the very outset of a request to study a building, for this once treat the fellow future professional with furniture details when he seeks the plans, for this once let him/her fill his/her memory card with pictures of your building, for this once thank him for choosing your building before any other, for this once facilitate him. Ask people associated with the field such as builders and developers to inculcate in themselves a similar attitude. Promote an environment of healthy learning where if your son or daughter pursues your profession, you needn’t phone someone up to let him/her study a building.

A note from the heart of a student of architecture who feels ashamed in asking his father (a senior government official) for trivial things like seeking permission to study a building.

The above email is shared on this blog with necessary permission from the student.