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Architects Need To Reorient Their Craft To Meet Needs Of Urban, Rural India

New Delhi: Eminent architect and educator, Professor Rahul Mehrotra, has called upon the architectural community to re-orient its craft and discipline to meet the changing urban and rural  needs of the 21st century India.

Delivering the Second Jhabvala Memorial Lecture here, Professor Mehrotra lamented that 99 percent of the professional narrative was devoted to catering to the fancies and preferences of one percent affluent clients. 

According to him this bias was producing “an architecture of indulgence,” ignoring the issues of inequality, pluralism, conservation and ecology.

Professor Mehrotra, who is Professor of Urban Planning and Design at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, noted that at the time of Independence there was only one school of architecture and now India could boast of 426 accredited schools. This proliferation in the professional schools and architects was reinforcing the “indulgence” bias.

In his spell-binding lecture, Professor Mehrotra spoke about the profession’s “protocols and practices” which needed a rethink. The Council of Architects needs to encourage young architects to learn about the needs and practices in smaller towns, internships of architectural students need to be in these towns, and the Council should facilitate this. 

He invited the younger practitioners to learn to make a distinction among “patrons, clients and users” and their different needs.

Asserting that there were no “absolute solutions,” Professor Mehrotra argued that  it was imperative for the architects and planners to think of “transition” before working for “transformation.”

In his animated talk, Professor Mehrotra exhorted that it was about time that planning for our cities was liberated of the “tyranny of images.” As he put it,“planners want Delhi or Mumbai to look like Singapore, or Shanghai; then, Nasik wants to look like Mumbai; and, this tyranny perpetuates itself in planners’ imagination--- irrespective of the needs, environment, capacities and resources.”

Sharing fascinating details of his iconic work on the planning and architecture at Kumbh Mela, Professor Mehrotra  suggested that “conservation” did not mean status quo and argued that it was possible for a sensitive architect to conserve, preserve yet innovate and improvise.

He illustrated this with examples of his work in Mumbai and Agra. In addition to which he showed examples of a variety of his projects all over India where his social and environmental values are put into practice.

The Jhabvala Memorial Lecture series has been instituted by the School of Planning and Architecture and the Jhabvala family in memory of the legendary Professor CSH Jhabvala. The first lecture was delivered last year by eminent architect, Raj Rewal.

Earlier, Prof. Mehrotra was introduced by Ms Renana Jhabvala. Professor Iftakar Chisti chaired the interactive session after the formal lecture. 

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