Landscape Architecture at CEPT @ 25
- July 28, 2017
Not many know , but the first landscape programme in India was started in around 1955- 58 in Khargapur in IIT. It ran for about 5-6 years ,and then Prof. Bhagwat, who had started it , relocated to Ahmedabad and with that the programme closed. Then, was the one in Delhi in the early 70s. He went there as its first HOD , but just did not like the city , and came back to Ahmedabad in a few months. But he was third time lucky and the one at CEPT that he started in 1993 has stayed its course.
In those days few of us were the enthusiastic workers , and rather so often the task of writing the preamble in the admission posters fell on me. I did that till I stopped teaching for almost 17 years.
This year the programme turns 25; and its interesting to see what these small preambles reveal to us.
Of-course much energy was spent on designing posters ; and when I look back on the ones in the early years they allow an archival inspection of how things changed and throw light on what were the issues foremost in the minds of the students and teachers then.
All that I am told is a thing of the past.
Do read the text written in 1993.
The designs of gardens in different cultures have often exemplified the best in creative energy. Uptil the 19th century these works consisted largely of gardens for aristocracy and religious institution. General perception that landscape Architecture concerns itself only with the designs of well laid-out gardens has undergone a change; a change that has been dramatic in our country. In the last two decades. Landscape Architects today are being called upon to addresses vastly different and complex situation. Complexities dictated by different eco-climatic zones, varying biotic factors and diverse design requirements, from design of residential, institutional and industrial landscapes the profession has extended itself into newer areas of heritage landscape, waste land, restoration projects, recreation landscapes and mining reclamation projects and the large hitherto ignored ambit of Regional Landscape Planning. On the other hand is the unfortunate reality of rapid growing profession without a well-grounded dynamic theoretical study base. In the past Landscape Architecture has been considerably shaped by events and attitudes in the discipline of Architecture. Architecture today, however in a break from the traditional and regionally appropriate methods of making buildings, has often in response to the climatic condition negated the interpenetration of landscape and building.
This alongwith the changing parameters governing Landscape Architecture has made the process of looking towards Architecture for inspiration a limiting exercise. A country with vastly differing eco-climatic zones, diverse cultural attitudes , limited resources ,absence of a meaningful generative ideology governing the design ,has lead to highly individualistic resolutions which often do not have the benefits of the large governing design matrix. This has led to a paradoxical situation of a profession that the enormous scope but does not have enough personnel with adequate expertise and sound academic base. As a response to the situation the program in Landscape Architecture at the school offers courses in Landscape History, Construction, Plant Science, Geology, Hydrology, Climatology and Ecology, etc., with an intent to:
. Impart information in the area of the natural science which would form a critical basis of the design process.
. Study the usage of elements of landscape history and attempt to reinterpret and examine their relevancy in today’s context.
. Introduce viewpoints of others disciplines which would allow defining the role of Landscape Architects in multidisciplinary design process.
The Program combines these courses with Design Studio which examine design situations and allow formation of an integrated and cohesive design vocabulary which is dictated by the sympathetic and complete understanding of the demands of the eco-climatic conditions.
What was amply clear in the text was a clear sense of optimism that the country promised then; the strong call for the profession to divorce itself from the clutches of architecture ( something that the profession of Interior Design did not do then and has not done now , much to its own disservice), and a strong case being made that the programme should in time create a theoretical framework for understanding and growing the discipline.
There was also a call to allow many other disciplines be able to influence thought in landscape architecture. The applied arts, literature, philosophy, anthropology, sociology to name a few.
Having being instrumental in developing this thinking I must say that in the initial years the efforts were exuberant and genuine. Plants were documented, literature and poetry read, sociologists were called to talk as were artists, design exercises used theater as inspiration, design reviews were weekly and often and always with invited critics from and outside the campus. History was taught in the most inventive ways. But 12 years later , it was clear that this was not enough and we had made a great beginning but it was just beginning to scratch the surface. The sense of urgency and worry was clear when I wrote the preamble for the 2004 poster.
From a more expansive tone, the words were becoming prescriptive and directional. Never a good idea for an academic place. The angst perhaps just mine, heightened by the fact that I imagined my self in a misplaced manner as an antenna for the going on’s of the profession.
The Landscape Architecture Program at CEPT was established in 1992. It has been 12 years since. The world around us has evolved greatly and continues to do so rapidly. To adapt, to learn, to be inventive and interpretative is of critical importance. The general perception that profession of Landscape Architecture concerns itself only with the designs of well-laid out gardens has undergone a change; a change that has been dramatic in our country in the last decades. In India, the discipline of Landscape Architecture finds itself a threshold, where its skills are required in all physical and environmental planning areas.
Landscape Architects today are being called upon to address vastly different & complexities dictated by different eco-climatic zones, varying biotic factors & diverse design requirements. From design of residential, institutional & industrial landscapes, the profession has extended itself into newer areas of heritage landscape, waste-land restoration projects, recreation landscapes, mining reclamation process & the largely hitherto ignored ambit of Regional Landscape Planning.
The Landscape Profession, however finds itself either unequipped or uninspired. The profession has enormous scope but does not have enough personnel with adequate expertise & sound academic base.
As a response to this situation the Landscape Architecture Program at CEPT was set-up.
To create design professionals of high quality expertise:
The program aims to provide core professional knowledge, understanding and expertise to enable students with skills that will allow them to handle a wide range of Landscape Design and Landscape Planning projects.
To encourage creative thinking and experimental design:
The program is committed towards motivating innovations and radical ways of thinking which would lead to experimental and creative designs.
To address the diversity of issues related to Landscape Architecture:
The program aims at not only introducing the student to various landscape issues related to design, ecology and environment, but also ensures the integration of these issues in design process.
To redefine the role of Landscape Architects in entirely:
The program looks beyond the regular interpretations of the Landscape Profession and identifies itself with the wider role that Landscape Architects are adopting world over.
To establish a forum of discussion of Landscape Architecture concerns:
In the profession with Architects, Urban Designers and Planners, the concerns of Landscape Architects have still not been defined precisely. The program is determined to create awareness of the importance of Landscape Architecture issues and awareness of the wide role that Landscape Architecture can play in societal well-being, amongst the authorities, decision makers and people at large.
To become resource centre in Landscape Architecture:
The program in CEPT becoming resource centre in Landscape Architecture/Design by development of expertise and development of reference material & data bank.
By 2005 it was clear that winds of economic change were raging in the country . The country was changing. I felt then that perhaps I must shake my worry and gloom and bugle a clarion call to young students. It was greatly validated by what we were doing in our studio then, and the desire to communicate the sense of urgency and the breadth of possibility was critical.
But also what was unsaid was that the department as a place to create theoretical frameworks was on the wane;and that discussion was slowly being tucked away.
The nation is on the threshold of enormous change. The physical fabric of nation is being reconfigured. Never before in the history of this nation, has the profession of Landscape Architecture being so critically required. In vastly different and complex situations Landscape Architects are being called to address the entire gamut of work, ranging from urban landscapes, regional landscapes, heritage landscapes, hospitality landscapes, institutional landscapes, restoration landscapes and housing landscapes. The profession of Landscape Architecture is being forged, and the program at CEPT University, is in the forefront of this movement.
The mood in 2006 was no different ; but the few years had taught me that while landscape architects were being given huge opportunities, they were often serving them in ways that were not best suited for the well being of the profession and hence while the call to the arms was clear; a caution about developing a system of values and not abandoning the desire to keenly inquire all things, crept in the note.
The canvas of our country’s physical realm is being modified drastically at a scale that is unprecedented. The Landscape Architects’ involvement is critical in development work of varying scales and typologies. This comprise of a complex range of projects that include infrastructure projects, regional landscapes, housing, institutional, recreational, urban, heritage, industrial and residential projects. In addition to developing technical capabilities, the landscape architect today, need to develop a critical sense of the profession and evolve a value system and a keen sense of inquiry, which will allow appropriate responses in such times of flux. The program at Faculty of Architecture, CEPT University is designed carefully to allow this comprehensive and in-depth understanding of the profession.
I then left teaching; perhaps for ever- and dont see my self going back to it.
By 2012 the programme had declared that it was world class; a phrase that I till date find surprising and not in great taste; educational programmes that pat them selves on their backs, indicate that something is amiss a great deal.
The note as such did not offer much other clue ,but referred back to what was a historical departure that the profession across the globe, has come to talk about often; that it did not do gardens.
And as the exhibition on Tracing Narratives tries to argue, education at the department and in the country, took that stance at its own peril.
But in a bid to increase student numbers , it offered other courses, which I suspect are not greatly distinguished from one another.
Having gained the experience of offering a world class program in Landscape Architecture for more than 20 years, it was felt that the field of Landscape Design, Planning and Management should be open to other suitable disciplines to meet the growing demand of Landscape Professionals in the country.
The present Landscape Professionals are being trained to not just be a garden beautifier but ecologically sensitive protector of Natural resources. They work on varying scales, complexities and typologies, which includes projects of regional landscapes, rejuvenation of derelict lands & industrial areas, housing, institutional, recreational, urban, heritage, infrastructure, industrial and household spaces. The discipline of Landscape Professional is still in the process of development. Today a Landscape Professional needs to develop a critical understanding of the scope of the profession and evolve a value system and a keen sense of inquiry in order to allow appropriate responses in the constantly changing world.
I now think that the days of printed posters are gone. But the website continues the tradition of the excerpt and the one on its 25th year has this to say.
Landscape Architects and Designers play a pivotal role in a country like India that is fast changing in its physical form. The present day Landscape Professional has been trained not just to be the garden beautifier but ecologically sensitive protector of the natural resources and works at varying scales, complexities and typologies, which includes projects in regional landscapes, housing, institutional, recreational, urban, heritage, infrastructure, industrial and household spaces. In addition to developing technical capabilities, today a Landscape Professional needs to develop a critical understanding of the scope of the profession and evolve a value system and a keen sense of inquiry in order to allow appropriate responses in the constantly changing world.
Its educative to read all this and ruminate. But its also important to assess; and act decisively , so that we become relevant .
There is a difference between populating a space and being relevant in it. In the 70s and 80s when there were very few landscape architects in India, they hardly populated the space but ,the few that were there , were relevant.
Today as a profession we populate the space, and I worry that we are not relevant. And the more we populate , with diminishing relevance, the more we betray the profession and its future.
For those who want to see some of the other earlier posters we have some archived. Do see here.
Mid-way; Tracing Narratives- Taking Stock.
July 01, 2017
It started with that Million Garden Project; one day we were asking " what is an Indian Garden" and the next day we were writing mails and calling friends, colleagues, old students across the country asking them to send us gardens from their regions. And slowly over a year ,we got
Where have the gentlemen gone? Kurula Varkey Forum- Memorial Lecture.
August 14, 2017
Where have the gentlemen gone? Text for KV Forum Memorial Lecture ; 11th August 2017. Young students, my fellow architects, my many friends and peers. Good Evening. This, is the first memorial lecture that I am giving. I am, both, grateful, but also extremely intimidated. I do not ,say this lightly. It is not that I have not spoken at