Friday, September 6, 2013

On Teachers' Day


This is one of the many (few) things that I feel truly fortunate to have experienced and documented for life during my time at architecture school. Among many other things, you haven’t completely experienced SPA Delhi if you haven’t been screamed at theatrically by Prof. Chishti (preferably outside the studio walls). Too bad if you have passed out already! I bet you have the most vivid memories from your life at college of his incredibly eventful Theory of Design sessions in the open air theatre. Professor IM Chishti is an institution all by himself.

In February 2013, Dr. Anil Dewan initiated a project for our professional practice studio to research and plan for what we would want to become ten years hence. Pedagogy had always been one of the million things on my mind after architecture school. So we began collating quantitative and qualitative information on our quest to become teachers, Wate Zheimi, myself and #thisunbelievablybrilliantguyinstudio! (who I call) Professor Dendup. This interview was part of it.

This is a (very bad quality) recording of my interview with Prof. Chishti about pedagogy, its objectives, nuances and lessons. Please write to me to help me make better this timed list of highlights from the interview. Also do share with me your opinions on any of the questions and answers from the interview to take this conversation forward. This interview is fairly long, but hey it’s been a while since you heard him speak!

Spoiler Alert: Too bad, there was no Chishti’s signature snorty laughter. I missed it too.


00:30 Ideologies of teaching
2:15 Pedagogy has to be a long term process. There has to be a vested interest in being a teacher.
4:15 Difference in the position of a studio director and being part of the faculty team
5:20 Architecture schools having ideologies
5:57 Willy nilly
6:00 SPA has ended up having a rounded ideology of a design school
7:45 The School of ‘Planning and Architecture’ was set up understand the Indian conditions. Vernacular regional studies have always been taken up extensively in the middle years.
9:20 Making a difference to contemporary society, senior years topics changed with global situations. Responsiveness to the changing conditions of the country.
12:30 SPA location in central Delhi has certainly affected us.
13:50 When the hostels were closer to campus there was a certain kind of energy.
14:45 Do good students make good teachers?
15:50 Measures of a good teacher
16:05 Being part of an institution
17:20 These values must mean something to you even outside the institutional framework
19:20 Belief systems of self discipline
19:55 Running a practice that is part of pedagogy, understanding the intersections and mutual dependencies
23:00 Scales of operation between practice and institution
23:40 Integrity as a teacher
24: 12 Teaching and working in an architecture office and not your own practice
25:00 New forms of flexible employment in both educational and professional institutions
26:22 Disconnect between studying and real work, apprenticeship?
27:45 Running a studio practice, parallel to curriculum in campus
29:40 Why are students not involved at all in the construction/renovation projects that happen in the school building?
30:40 Summer jobs within the school,
31: 30 Art thesis
32:45 If I apply for a job with the school what will be the parameters?
33:25 Do you have a contribution to make?
34:15 Are you a good communicator
34:55 Taking phone call
35:28 Of the TOD session that he just walked out of (which fortunately created the time for this interview to happen)
36:10 You get feedback qualitative and quantitative from your class intuitively
37:20 Chishti blasted a young architecture student at his thesis jury, only to be thanked years later at the twenty under thirty five exhibition by the same student who was now a designer invited by him to exhibit at the event!
39:50 A bad architect spoils a building but a bad teacher spoils a whole generation of buildings.

While he says this is only almost true, what it is completely true is that this teacher has positively instigated a whole generation of graduates from the SPA, Delhi to really think and therefore be. This Teachers’ Day I thank him and all my teachers (so many of you don’t even know I see you as one), for inspiring me. I will become one of you as I begin my journey as a teaching artist with Music Basti very soon.

In other news, I graduated from Architecture School.

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