Architecture education in Pakistan

Architecture education globally is inclining towards digital technologies to enhance residents’ livelihood

Dr Shoeb Ahmed Memon June 28, 2021

We live in the age of digitalisation, where most work involves technology in various forms. The most important consequence of this is the enhanced focus on interdisciplinary teaching and research. AI, the internet of things, big data, virtual reality, and augmented reality have altered our understanding of the world and of education.

Peter Gray explained that earlier, people learned what they needed for survival. Culture provided children freedom to acquire knowledge and skills to become effective in their job pursuits and agriculture and, later, the industrial revolutions changed the focus of learning. The structured procedures were to increase productivity rather than to create value; education, provided a way to produce successful followers as workers.

Even though IR shaped the world today, the concept of improving efficiency through specialisation has been adopted in education. This has led educational institutions to focus on specialised programmes to suit market needs, not recognising the true spirit of education in its interdisciplinary nature and holistic development of students.

Similarly, architecture as a field has evolved from historical ages. Ancient architects, painters, sculptures and masons had created wonders of the world that are not even possible in the age of technology. Today, architecture has become a profession to produce operators to obey commands. The true spirit of a holistic development has been lost from the profession, at the very least in Pakistan. As home to the great Indus Valley civilisation, Pakistan could have excelled in architecture education, and producing world-renowned architects, but there are hardly any examples. We even forget about our architecture and cultural heritage. Universities are too concerned about producing graduates aligned to the follower mentality to replicate or create eye-catching buildings that are impossible to construct. Areas such as critical thinking, problem solving, innovativeness, and collaboration, cannot be found in Pakistan’s curriculum. The current framework for the bachelors programme hardly considers them essential knowledge areas. One might say design studios are meant to stimulate creative thinking and problem solving. But it comes down to the individual lecturer, his/her knowledge, and the student’s ability to capture it in studio work.

There is a need to incorporate modules to stimulate creative thinking, problem solving, and innovativeness, which can be practiced on in studio. Institutions must ensure the quality of architectural education in Pakistan. In a recent interaction, it was evident how universities are made to follow the traditional paradigm by the very institutions made to promote higher quality education.

Architecture education globally is inclining towards digital technologies to enhance residents’ livelihood. As Arif Hasan stated, “The most important function of an architect is to create a comfortable architecture, comfortable in the widest sense of the word, and related to economic and technological limitations of the society in which he lives ... We have failed to relate the technological revolution to our real needs, and failed to grasp that societies have changed overnight.”

The statement stands correct even today; we have failed to respond to the rapidly changing environment. Architecture education must be revamped to practically focus on architecture as an interdisciplinary field, incorporating: economics, sustainability, delivery, and restoration issues; adopting digital technologies besides building information modelling and management; and improved focus on critical thinking, problem solving and innovativeness.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 28th, 2021.

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