I know of many fresh graduates in the field, who feel less motivated to be working in an Architect’s office than they should have been. I remember this wasn’t the case until we read about architectural practice and didn’t take a close look at it. Ironically, what we understood was architecture as an idea, as a thought, as an instinctive craving of the human mind for spaces.
Spaces that make you feel protected, space that put you in a vulnerable position and spaces that scare you. We did not read about architecture as a profession. Narendra Dengle in an interview with The Hindu, explains, “Space has been called “a pure, a priori intuition”, which means that no one taught us ‘space-sense’. It is in this sense that we can comprehend forms. We can think of the world devoid of form, but not devoid of space. Space and place together shape our understanding of physical and psychological space.”
The power that architecture holds to move you in more than one ways seems to be missing today, or to put it better, is available only to the ‘privileged’ ones.
Why is the practice shrinking only to those who can afford to get their buildings clad in copper, glass and wood?
“Architects are concentrated mainly in big cities. And who are their clients there? Not the lower middle class, also not many in the middle – middle class. Their clients are the rich, businessmen, industrialists and public and private institution builders: mostly the upper crust of the society.” [Shah, Kirtee. “Architects and Architectural Practice in India: Some imperatives.” Bali, 2009]. Low-cost housing is for those who unfortunately can not afford any of it.
But why does an entire discipline suffer because of the myopia of its professionals? Why do a few individuals and the precedents they set end up defining an entire field?
More specifically, why the design of a low-cost housing unit usually offers such low-quality spaces due to the class of their residents. Is design a mere privilege of the upwardly-mobile?
Research in new building materials is usually interested in appropriating the vernacular for the same class of clients. The affluent want to set themselves apart by seeming to be concerned about the environment. So, green buildings and LEED certification our become the only aims of designers?
As architects, do we see anything more in architecture than just professional growth and fulfilment? What are we ambitious about? Why do we feign nobility?