Comments on Syllabi of Courses
1. The comments given below are based on my experience of teaching. In making these comments I have not taken into consideration the constraints, both administrative and faculty related, that are faced by the teachers and administrators at the University.
2. Basically the Study of Architecture consists of theory, design and technology and the tools of communication.
Theory consists of architectural theory, history, sociology and the physical and socio-economic aspects of the environment.
Design is the process of relating function to form in an aesthetic manner while at the same time taking into account the larger socio-economic and physical environment, within which the function is located.
Technology consists of understanding and applying the principles of construction, materials, structure and services to a building or a larger physical environment.
3. The main challenge of architectural education is to link theory, design, technology and communication into a cohesive whole in a studio environment.
4. To help make this happen I suggest a number of ways which are given in the paragraphs below.
5. First Year:
5.1 The course in basic construction should consist of nothing more than getting the student to understand the different elements that constitute a building and their dimensions. These elements would include things like doors, windows, walls, beams, columns, foundations, staircases etc. It would help if the student was made to draw the plans, elevations and sections of these elements once he has learnt to use a scale and the various symbols through which they are expressed.
5.2 The course in Pakistan Studies should consist of understanding the geography and ecology of the country, the existing governance systems, demography, migration and the processes of urban and rural production along with the factors and actors of change.
5.3 The introduction to environmental studies should deal with the factors and actors that create the built-environment. Field visits to understand these relationships should be arranged leading to the writing of a report for each such visit.
5.4 The course in applied mathematics makes sense. However, those in physics and chemistry do not.
6. Second Year:
6.1 In the architectural design course an understanding of the client-architect relationship concept should be introduced. There are various ways of doing this.
A number of small two or three day sketch design exercises should be given to students for things like a poster, furniture design, signage etc. This will help in linking building design to its other elements.
6.2 The history of civilisation course should use the understanding developed in the environmental studies course in the First Year for an understanding of history. This will help the student in both design and theory. Otherwise, it is a separate course which has no links with what the students has learnt earlier.
6.3 The development studies course should be curtailed and shifted to the Fourth Year.
6.4 Building construction and material course should include the preparation of working drawings for at least one project that the student designs. For other projects, certain identified construction details should be drawn out.
6.5 In the structures for architects’ course, the principles of structures rather than the theory should be taught. Through such a course the student can reach a better understanding of structures than through a theory course. However, such a course needs to be developed.
6.6 The Islamic Studies course should deal with the development of trade and its links with urbanisation, architecture and culture, in both the classical and medieval Muslim empires. The socio-economic and political causes for the decline of the empires should also be studied.
6.7 At this stage the student should be introduced to the concept of architectural theory. Elements like symmetry, axis, contrast, scale, harmony, colour, texture, courtyards, etc should be discussed and students made to observe these in real life. For this the class can be divided into groups of four who can study things like sun breakers, hotel lobbies, commercial kitchens, office interiors, etc. in terms of function, aesthetics, sociology and report back to the class through a presentation. If well conducted it can be an important learning process in design theory and its application.
7. Third Year:
7.1 In history of civilisations course, it is important to deal with the contemporary history of South-Asia, South-East Asia, Japan and China and link it to their past and to colonial influences. There is a lot of material on Asian and Middle Eastern cities.
7.2 In the theory course, we should look at the origins and development of modernism, post-modernism (and its various isms), the sustainable development paradigm (green architecture), regionalism and community produced architecture. Buildings and architects of these different isms should be identified and critically discussed. Many films are available which can be accessed on this subject.
7.3 In the housing programme, a history of the development of concepts and its authors would enhance an understanding of the current housing processes and their actors. This understanding could then be applied to the Pakistan situation.
7.4 Every student should be made to identify an under-construction building site. He should visit this site every two weeks and prepare a report on its progress. He should report back on what is happening, the terminology and material being used, the type of labour working at the site at that particular time etc. A form to help him to do this could be developed. This will link the student to the building site. The site should be a small one – perhaps a residence.
7.5 Climatology could be integrated into theory, especially in relationship to green architecture.
7.6 Structure for architects should deal with issues of timber and earthquake resistant buildings. Again, the structure’s course should deal with principles rather than theory.
7.7 At the end of the Third Year, I feel that the architect should be able to design and supervise a building or a building complex on his own and to understand and relate the various elements of the built-environment to each other.
8. Fourth and Fifth Year:
8.1 I have no specific comments on the Fourth and Fifth Year courses except that the structure’s course should be on principles and not on theory and that working and structural drawings should be prepared of a project that the students have done. Also, in the history of civilisation’s course the conflict between tradition and modernity should be studied in a rational manner.
8.2 At this level it is also necessary to understand who the architect’s clients are. Before, they were the state and the elite. Today they are a receding state, an expanding corporate sector, a middle class represented by developers, the elite and poor communities. They all have different cultures, different relationship with the building industry, and very different requirements.
8.3 At this stage it is also necessary to understand what constitutes the “building industry” and its relationships to housing and economic and skill development. This could be conveyed in a couple of lectures.
8.4 Regarding thesis, I feel the emphasis should be primarily on the objectives of the thesis and all else should be derived from them. The meaning of terms and the concepts and history behind them are of importance for giving clarity to the thesis methodology
9. The creation of an ambience of learning through association and symbiosis is key to integrating the various elements that create architecture. From what I gather this is already happening. It requires workshops, discussions, lectures, exhibitions, etc in addition to course work but in relation to it. More than anything else it requires faculty coordination, meetings, minutes of meetings, follow up – with the objective of creating a culture of continuous learning within the faculty.