Topic for Debate
Multidisciplinarity, Interndisciplinarity, and Transdisciplinarity in Architecture and the built environment
During the late fifties and sixties, the academic and professional community called for and emphasized the value of "Specialization". That emphasis resulted in isolated disciplines, professions, and fragmented knowledge even within one discipline (Architecture). Then over the past three decades, the term multi-disciplinary emerged, followed by inter-disciplinary, and in the nineties the term transdisciplinarity emerged, and became a hot topic in recent years. In many cases, those terms are used interchangeably.

Any thoughts, ideas, concerns, examples of designs, books or research work (conceptual or empirical) that aim at crossing the boundaries between different disciplines.

I believe the Archnet community members have a lot to say in this respect.
Ashraf Salama
Multidisciplinarity, Interndisciplinarity, and Transdisciplinarity in Architecture and the built environment
How does one demarcate boundaries of a discipline? In a third world context, most of the citizens are confused between engineering and architecture! We even have a branch called architectural engineering in our engineering colleges. They would like to practice as architects and some do. Which architects don't like at all!

In architecture schools one studies structure for five years, but no architect wants to practice as an engineer. I think the secret of this situation lies in the fact that engineering tends to focus more on specialization while architecture has always aimed at multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary approaches. The syllabus of a 5 year course includes arts, art history, humanities including sociology,economics,aesthetics and philosophy. Technical subjects such as building construction, materials, quantities, specifications, surveying and levelling, climatology, acoustics and services. Design stream includes basic design, architectural design, interior design, landscape design, urban design and urban planning. This is followed by building bye-laws, legislation, professional practice and project management.

Each school makes an effort to have related studies and electives to cover other areas of interests, perhaps an example of efforts towards transdisciplinary approach. Perhaps, it is easier to understand this as an all inclusive wholistic approach as opposed to specilization which aims at excluding non-essential and focus on a narrow field. So when I read about Tafuri's forecast that architecture is a dying profession, I was shocked. He cited the evidence in the form of drop out of architecture colleges in Europe and reduction in the usage of the term architecture and popularity of new terms such as interior design etc. I wondered if he meant the shift of architecture from its narrow disciplinary domain to a new understanding as a multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary field of human endeavour.

At the Indian Institute of Architects we formally gave up in 1987 the narrow definition of architecture as an art and science of buildings and redefined it as art and science of built-environment. We are more concerned with the entire process of shaping the built environment than just designing of buildings. I proposed a Charter on Architecture which was adopted unanimously at the National Convention of the IIA held at Ahmedabad. The Charter also identified the new scope of architecture which in some ways was an attempt at demarcating the boundaries of our profession. It was my way of ensuring that Tafuri's forecast would be proved wrong. I insist that we use the term architecture wherever needed and possible rather than design. e.g. rather than interior design we use interior architecture and instead of interior designer we would prefer the term interior architect. e.g. In German, they prefer it that way..innen architektur, inner architekt !! The survival and development of our profession now depends on the way we respond to the issues and challenges our time rather than fashions promoted by the media. In order to steer the profession towards this direction, we need to ensure that in we restructure our approaches in schools, colleges and universities and prepare our students to face the new challenges in practice.
Akhtar Chauhan
Multidisciplinarity, Interndisciplinarity, and Transdisciplinarity in Architecture and the built environment
Thanks Professor Chauhan for your response. The separation between disciplines by establishing boundaries occurs within a professional realm and is represented by the culture of a profession. By default, this is reflected on education. I believe it is the paradox of classification and categorizing.

Yes, in schools there are humanities, structures, building physics...etc, but they are introduced as separate disciplines. The impact of those disciplines or subject areas is not well articulated. The result is a boundary between disciplines (whether this is seen as positive or negative, but it is a fact).

I agree on the issue of confusion between engineers and architects, and I would refer to the fact that they were (building engineering and architecture) one profession historically, then the separation came in the 19th century, after some building and structural disasters incidents ocurred in France and Italy, because of architects. Architectural engineering as a discipline exists, and now people are starting to realize the differences and there are differences exemplified by responsibilities and expectations, within the profession.

I like your introduction of the term wholisitic in this context. My thinking is that Tafuri's work means by architecture as a dying profession, that architecture as practiced today will differ dramatically than the future. However, I would adopt his views regarding the evidence, and add that when we ask high school students approaching the university, very few will say they are interested in pursuing architecture studies, they want to be engineers, computer scientists, doctors..etc, and this of course depends on the context.

The efforts of the Indian Institute of Architects are remarkable in this context, I am wondering if this was refelcted on the structure of schools of architecture in India, in terms of curricula, staff specialties, degree programs and titles. It would be helpful if some statements of this charter can be posted here, or in the digital library, so that others concerned can benefit from this experience.

Many thanks,
Ashraf Salama
Ashraf Salama
Multidisciplinarity, Interndisciplinarity, and Transdisciplinarity in Architecture and the built environment

Just elaborating upon some of the important points and issues mentioned by Mr. Chauhan, that (according to the title I mentioned) that this is what we are taught of to have a knowledge of every related field. Thats when this multidisciplinary comes into play.
The two streams of subjects mentioned are true, but this categorization never stops, for example even when we are designing either interior or exterior, we are often called for, how the structure will be?

Yes, Mr. Chauhan you are right about seperating the term architecture with its sub-disciplines, but I would rather prefer to include them in ARCHITECUTRE i.e. to take them as the architect's job, to design even the mechanism and engineering of a building.

The case of the local professionals will reinforced my point, that they have the system of taking interior of a building in a different design exercise and they also charge it seperately, this is when professionals themself push the people to use the terms like you mentioned "interior designer" or "landscape designer". But the question is how can architect in this competitive society can withhold with all of the above mentioned task.
Arshad Siddiqui
Multidisciplinarity, Interndisciplinarity, and Transdisciplinarity in Architecture and the built environment
Dear Ashraf,

Thank God, for in India, Architecture is blossoming! There are more students joining architecture. While there were only two schools of architecture in 1947 when India gained its independence, today we have more than 107. (I need to check up with the Council of Architecture, the exact number!) There is a lot of concern about the quality of architectural edcuation. The Council of Architecture is charged up with the responsibility to ensure the minimum standards are upheld. Prior permissions are a must and periodic visitations keep a check on the standards. While there is a 5 year course for Architecture, some new courses such as in Interior Architecture and Town Planning are available at under-graduate level. While there are a few centres offering post grad courses : Masters in Architecture ( By research / design), urban design, urban and regional planning, landscape architecture, housing, and super specialization in hospital planning and design, environmental planning and design. The numbers of colleges offering post grad degrees/diploma are very few, resulting in a large section of students going abroad for their further studies.

As regards to the wholistic approach. It was the School of Architecture, Ahmedabad under the guidance of Prof. B.V.Doshi, which adopted this approach. In Sixties and early seventies the school pioneered the methodology to study the local, regional and national context and attempted a synthesis between the local and global. I was very much inspired by Prof. Doshi, his colleagues Prof. Hasmukh Patel,Prof. Anant Raje & Prof. Kulbhushan Jain and friends while studying urban and regional planning at The Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology. CEPT was considered by us a Mecca of Architecture!

In Mumbai, we were inspired by Prof. Yatindra Chandawarkar, Prof. Raja Poredi, Prof. Dilip Purohit and Prof. Shankar Brahme and the works of Architect Charles Correa, Piloo Modi and Nari Gandhi.

In Delhi, School of Planning and Architecture greatly influenced by the Chandigarh experiment and the works of Le Corbusier. It became a national centre for excellence in architectural studies under Prof. Manikam and Prof. Jhabvala who were supported by a committed faculty that included Raj Rewal, Ranjit Sabiki and M.N.Ashish Ganju.

Architects such as Achyut Kanvinde, Charles Correa, Balkrishna Doshi, Anant Raje and Laurie Baker were involved in a whole range of designing and planning in our cultural context. Chandigarh was followed by development of Gandhinagar, Gujarat and Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra. Indian architects led the mutlti-disciplinary teams to plan these large scale urban development and housing projects.

The Indian Institute of Architects since its early days was involved in discussing urban issues, e.g. early town planning scheme in Mumbai were debated at its forums.

In 1984, the Indian Institute of Architects was reactivated under the Presidentship of Rusi Khambatta, an architect planner. Madhav Deobhakta, who followed him, guided the development towards the critical issues in housing and urbanisation. I was the editor of the Journal of the IIA which became an instrument of change. The network of IIA spread throughout the country and the concerns were reflected at local levels.

IIA hosted international conferences
on Urbanisation in Asia (1988), Asian Congress of Architects on Architecture-Environment (1990) and Conservation of Architectural Heritage (1992) with UIA Work Group. I was the technical co-ordinator.

This was followed by the two conferences with Commonwealth Association of Architects on Urbanisation and Housing and the Conference on Housing for the Urban Poor jointly with Arcasia, CAA and UIA.

In 1998, we formed the International Association for Humane Habitat (IAHH)to continue these concerns. Rizvi College of Architecture has hosted 5 International Conferences on Humane Habitat (ICHH)on the themes of Affordable Housing for All (1999), Sustainable Development and Architecture (2000), Appropriate Architecture and Technology (2001), Innovative Architecture and Technology (2002) and the Quest for Excellence: Evolving a Humane Habitat (2003) and now we have announced the 6th ICHH on Healing the Habitat: Restructuring, Redesign and Redevelopment of human settlements.

In this way, the engagement of Indian architects with urban, social and environmental issues continues at all levels. This results in architecture of substance appropriate to our culture and climate. There are younger architects who have taken up local issues, urban design issues, slums upgradation, area improvements and environmental enrichment projects.

But a vast majority of architects are affected the explosion of so called post-modern -kitsch. Of late under the effect of globalisation there is the inslaught of glass and aluminum clad malls, multiplexes and office blocks which is changing the urban context. This is disturbing but a fact of life.

The only way one can deal with this is to confront this trend with creative and constructive alternatives. That is the real challenge. Architecture schools have to adderss these contexts and contradictions to prepare new generation of architects to take up this challenge.

with warm regards,
Akhtar Chauhan
Multidisciplinarity, Interndisciplinarity, and Transdisciplinarity in Architecture and the built environment
Dear Akktar; many thanks for your display of what is going on in India. One of things that are missing is that while people keep talking about what is taking place in the west, they forget compeletely about the experience of other countries.

I seize this opportunity to invite you to take an active role in our group workspace "Architectural Pedagogy and Andragogy". I will add your name as a member. Please have a look at it and go through the discussions, email postings, meeting room current and archives chats, web collections, articles and papers...etc. We have a number of excellent active participants, but we really need people like you. It is worth the effort.

My best, Ashraf
Ashraf Salama


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