well or as badly as he can as an individual practitioner, so the issues you were discussing remain at the theoretical level. And secondly, we build for the layman, we dialogue with him. We are not building for ourselves. So whatever theorizing I do, it is my client with whom I am finally discussing the project when I build. To that extent we are different from painters and filmmakers and writers though we all produce objects.
42 We are often proud of the fact that we act; there is the idea of getting things done. Now questions are being asked about how it is done. We have been dissatisfied with what we have been doing, and the failures are obvious: we see complaints all the time about crumbling plaster or the decay of the environment, and at almost any of these levels the architect is there to face questions they cannot answer. Some of these issues have been discussed here. Perhaps to start with, what is Indian architecture? Is it culturally defined, or functionally—i.e. climatically—defined? What is the architects' heritage? What is the cultural baggage they carry when they build? What is their attitude towards the past? How do they propose to use it to build the future? We've had a lot of discussion here about western influences, and our profession has, I'm afraid, been extremely influenced by the west. But there are mitigating circumstances. To start with is the fact that the modem architect only builds about two per cent of India's buildings. Therefore, they cannot make things very much worse.
Architecture as a profession, the way we know it, has been a very recent introduction into society. Before that, buildings were built by the thekedars and village masons; the ability to build, in these situations, is not so specialized a skill that it is removed from the ordinary experience of the people. This is typical of a pre-industrial society. Materials and mud are available, so there is no complicated situation requiring skilled intervention. Architecture as we know it was limited to a few types of buildings, like forts or palaces. It has therefore been considered an elite profession, working for the elite, and by and large in India it continues to be so.
The west has had its ideals — like Vitruvius — who defined architecture in terms of three qualities: its firmness, its utility and its beauty, and civilization can be explicated by the varying emphasis given to each of them. The beauty aspect had really defined the culture of architecture until after the influence of the industrial revolution when it came to be defined as firmness plus utility. Beauty ceased to be an independent variable. And at that stage architecture as a contemporary profession was introduced to India. Since the practice of the profession was introduced to us by the west, we have discounted all our previous experiences as we too now speak of a predominantly functional notion of beauty.
With the influence of technology, we have three or four great masters who have defined our understanding of modem architecture: there was Corbusier saying: 'A house is a machine to live in'; Mies van der Rohe: 'Less is more'; Wright: 'Form follows function'. In none of these statements was beauty a specific consideration, and
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