A.G. Krishna Menon
architecture became little more than a rational problem-solving exercise. We have examples of the Bauhaus, where problems had to be analyzed and every design problem was assumed to have a rational solution. If the solution wasn't good enough it was because the problem identification wasn't good enough. The building process itself was seldom questioned. The creative role of the architect was to create solutions. Problems in turn were defined in relation to the processes of solving them. All else was excluded; once considered the 'mother of all arts', architecture now excluded the arts 43 from its considerations entirely.
From this we got what could be defined as the International Style, as both problems and their solutions were universalized. We could see any problem and come up with a common definition. This became characteristic of the International Style, and therein lies its attractiveness to the modernizing Indian architect. Right from the twenties and thirties, and especially after independence, Indian architects have been heavily influenced by this International Style, and ever since they have mimicked everything that has gone on in the west, at best attempting to Indianize' it. So today we have post-modernism in India and we desperately try to abstract our past into the post-modem mould. A good example of this is the recent Indira Gandhi National Centre of the Arts competition, which was won by an American: this was typical, the west even defining our post-modem traditions for us. The award-winning design is a good functional design that aesthetically places elephants and gopurams and shikhars all over the place to define, in 1987, Indian architecture. That defines the situation of our architecture where an American can come up with pastiche and win an intema tional competition, and the Indian state puts up a hundred crores to build it. With the critical role of the state and the low status of the Indian architect, problems are poorly defined.
The other thing I would mention is our inheriting from the west the role-model of the Indian architect: the individual professional working with a private client. There are variations, of course. We have people like the government architects who believe that between nine and five they can find a design solution. This is how a lot of buildings are built. The government architect is extremely low in the hierarchy and whatever he does is changed by the joint secretary or secretary. This is a dismal situation. But these architects constitute a huge percentage of the profession, for most buildings are built by the government.
Then we have the architect-developer, people like DLF and Ansals, defining whafs going on at Connaught Place right now; here the architect merely signs the papers because the actual designing is done by the developer, who knows the market. They have clout, as the recent FAR (floor-area ratio) scandal showed.
We then have the community-oriented architects, people helping NGOs, helping build self-help housing; this is a somewhat new role for the architect as advocate-enabler. The rules of the game are not defined beyond the moral role of helping the community; but it has served to shift the earlier definitions of the profession. Then