Habeeb Khan and Simon Allford highlight the importance of education and diversification in architectural design

ADM Summit’s dialogue on ‘Diversifying architectural design education and careers in the new age’ highlighted the two verticals – design education and architecture as a profession and career. Royal Institute of British Architecture (RIBA) president Simon Allfrod and Council of Architecture (COA) president Habeeb Khan discussed how the regulatory bodies function for education development and how they work together to provide new opportunities.

Talking about RIBA’s achievement and how it developed over the years, Allford said, “RIBA is almost 200 years old, founded by a group of men who were interested in the art of architecture. They wanted to create a learning society and that learning society evolved to a learned society. They kept a register of members who were architects by title and in the 19th century they were inventing a profession before it was just a gentleman’s club. It evolved massively into a global institute. The most unique thing about RIBA is that the system of education gives full freedom to schools to approach in their own way. We live in a dynamic world and the richness of schools, cultures, countries, regions really matters as it gives creative solutions to the people to solve their problems.”

He further added, “Lot of architects do not pursue architecture professionally; they have studied the subject and they have gone on to make movies, run businesses and I think that’s very healthy. This is how we want to create the next generation of critical thinking people who are problem solvers, who can help our society in diverse ways.”

Commenting on whether organised education has filled the quality in architecture, Allford added, “Different suites of models are emerging in the UK. The classic model and the diploma course, where you study for two years, work for three years and then you study for two more years and then you go for professional exams. We also have mixed models like we run sandwich courses where students can learn, work and then learn. As a professional, we keep on facing challenges from society, clients, and from ourselves so learning is very much needed at every stage. Multiple mixes of models like learning and working simultaneously are the healthiest models.”

In the UK, the title of architect is protected but the functions and services are not protected. Allford said, “In the UK, after qualifying for the professional degree, one can register as an architect and the title will be protected. But if someone is not professionally qualified but has an interest in carpentry and designing a building then we don’t stop them and they can perform it. We just protect the titles and not functions. The functions are protected by building regulations by many codes. A large number of buildings are built by architects and some are built by non-architects. I consider it healthy personally and lots of colleagues don’t agree with me. As an institute we are promoting good and best practices, we are not here to create unions.”

He further added, “You can build a building without an architect, therefore the society and client doesn’t value architecture as they will get the building they deserve. It might be safe, structurally sound, and incredibly important but it might not bring them long-term value. In my opinion, we should focus on long-term value in architecture, not the protection of functions.”

Talking about the Indian scenario of architectural functions, Khan said, “In India, the architectural function is not protected, only the title is protected. There are a lot of non-architects, civil engineers, allied professionals who can sign building plans and local authorities permit them to build. It is a matter of concern because in tier II and III cities, there is a lack of awareness about architects and architecture and we are trying to reach out to them to educate them to know the importance of architecture and architects which helps in improving the quality of life of the user.”

He further added, “In tier II cities, things gradually changed over the last 30 years. People are becoming aware of architects and even small houses are being designed and constructed by architects. This is because people are aware of the value that an architect brings in the project. It will take time but slowly people will adapt to it if the architects bring excellence in their work and show people what is missing in projects by non-architects.”

To make the next generation aware of architecture, Allford recommended making the architect professionals visit the local schools and make them aware of what architecture, design, engineering, and construction is. It will make the upcoming society aware of the value of architect professionals. It will also encourage them to become an architect by profession.

Talking about the training and involvement of faculty in making the architects, Allford said, “There is no qualification for teaching architecture. Most of the teachers of the university courses may study architecture at some point and some may not. Some might be historians and some may be physicists and the school will put together a group of people to deliver architecture education. The CV doesn’t matter whether they studied architecture but what really matters is the output the student delivers. We have 12 apprentices in our organisation and it is our responsibility to make them learn. In the developing modern world, we have to learn on a daily basis and make the other generations learn about architecture.”

Khan highlighted how the young architects are facing disillusionment after completing their studies, the wages are minimal and sometimes it is lesser than the unqualified one and the situation is the same across the world. He also highlighted that the graph of the students joining architecture is dwindling because of the job prospects and remuneration.

On asking what is the future of architecture as a profession, Allford said, “There will be much diversity of peoples, culture and context; and education will make our profession flourish. My desires for our profession are to be more competent, confident, and have better cash flow. I think architecture has a bright future and our coming generations will climb on our shoulders and learn from us. With the evolving technology the challenges are also more as we have to work smartly on how we will design, and use materials wisely, recycling and reusing buildings in a smart way, so the craft has to be developed and traditional skills to be revived.”

Khan concluded the session by highlighting the responsibility of architects in building society. He said, “Architects have the major responsibility and role to play in this world and they have to excel in their work and deliver at their best level which may pay them in the long run.”

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