PROF. GAURI KOTNIS SHIURKAR | Principal | McGAN’s Ooty Schoool of Architecture
Prof.Gauri Kotnis Shiurkar, Principal at McGAN’s Ooty Schoool of Architecture has a long experience of setting up new Institutes and bringing them up to excellent standards. Prof.Gauri Shiurkar, a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) focused in Architectural Conservation from PhD Research Center, SMM College of Architecture, Nagpur, in an exclusive interview with Sawdust talks about various issues concerning the profession and our education system:
What made you to get into the profession of architecture? Was it inspired by someone or some events?
I was always fascinated by our great Historic buildings and was curious to know the purpose behind building such huge monuments and the processes involved in building them. So I thought learning Architecture is the only way to understand our rich Heritage.
About being an Academician, I was highly inspired by our Principal Prof. Vijay Shinde who was a great teacher and equally good an administrator. The way he nurtured his students was outstanding. I look at him as my idol. When I decided to join academics after graduation, Prof. Vijay Sohoni was the person who motivated me a lot and I am grateful to both my Gurus for whoever I am today.
Tell us some of the architectural marvels which you liked the most? And why?
Being a hardcore conservation Architect, I am always in awe of our heritage structures. If you talk about marvels , each and every heritage structure in India is a marvel in itself. Kailash Temple, Rani ki wav, the caves of Bheempethka, Mandu, Maheshwar, Khajuraho and many more.
In a country with 1.2 billion population, the number of world renowned Indian architects are very few. Why is it so? Has it something to do with our education system?
Yes, definitely. There are flaws in our education system. Our education system doesn’t give a chance to the students to develop the right side of their brain which takes care of creativity.
There are many Indian architects doing great work at national as well international level, but are known less due to lack of exposure of their works at both levels.
Do you think anybody (with education) can become successful architect? Or he need to have something in him inborn?
The student has to have strong visualization and creative ability. Rest skills can be taught. But basically there has to be something in him inborn. Nobody can be forced to become creative.
Do you think Vastushastra should be included in the curriculum?
The Scientific points from the Vastushastra are already being taken care of in different subjects. In my opinion, Vastushastra as a separate subject need not be a part of the curriculum.
Sustainability, environment protection and global warming are the greatest worries of the mankind. How the architecture profession can help in resolving these issues?
Architecture has always played a huge role in climate change. We know that buildings contribute to nearly half of the nation’s CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions – which is a huge part of the problem, but the good news is, it’s a huge part of the solution.
Architects can lead the climate change movement by designing the greenest, healthiest buildings and environments. The very best in technical advancements needed to produce climate-saving buildings have been put in place over the last few decades.
Thousands of years ago, ancient civilizations worked with earthly materials to power their buildings and homes. The Persians knew how to make use of natural elements; they were known to engineer wind catchers for natural ventilation. These structures regulated temperatures indoors and allowed lower level rooms to stay cool during hot days, also serving as early refrigerators, keeping food cool. Aboriginal people in North America used their resources carefully; today we see a resurgence of interest in low carbon footprint, sustainable food production and a move away from the consumerism that dominated the 20th century.
Today’s environmental challenges have brought sustainability to the forefront of our design practices. Many architectural firms are now very concerned with creating the eco-friendliest structures. Learning from our past and present trends can help future architects and designers determine which methods work best for creating sustainable buildings that can both survive and actually help lessen the effects of climate change. Recognizing that the decisions we make today to create a high quality, dense urban environment, even at the scale of smaller towns and villages, reduces transportation energy needs and CO2. And that investing in architecture, to create those high quality spaces, results in lower energy use, and better investment over the lifecycle of the building, leaving a legacy for our children.
Terms like architecture and interior design are always coined with affluent society in India. How the benefits of these professions can percolate to the lowest level in country like India which has one of the largest homeless population. Do you think architecture can play any role in it?
For this one need to study the basic meaning of homeless population and analyse its roots, as to its formation and find a concrete solution at that stage. The role of architects comes next. Providing home for homeless is not a perfect solution it’s just like giving a painkiller without curing the illness.
Tell us about McGAN’s Ooty School of Architecture. How different it is from other architecture institutions?
Our institution is imparting a 5-year B.Arch Degree programme and several 2-year M.Arch Post Graduate Degree programmes. The courses are approved by Council of Architecture and the institution is affiliated to Anna University, Chennai.
The institution commenced in 2008, inside a rented building in Ooty town. It moved to its present campus in the year 2010. This is the only stand-alone institution imparting architectural courses in the District of Nilgiris. The strength of our institution is its faculty members with diverse cultural and academic backgrounds from various regions of country. Padmashree Awardee Architect Mr.G.Shankar, one of the eminent personalities in the field of architecture and who is doing a lot of research in the field of sustainable architecture is the Director of our institute.
The institute is situated in a beautiful area surrounded by woods and tea estates. This lush natural environment gives an opportunity to the student community to learn in a calm and peaceful, meditative atmosphere. As this is a residential institution in which both students and faculty members stay together, the students get a lot of mentoring apart from regular curriculum based learning.
The students also learn from a number of value added courses. These value added courses are offered free of cost to the students. No other institute in India offers such kind of opportunity to the student community. Our day at McGAN’s starts with morning exercise session and ends with Art circle practices. We provide them with the best of knowledge through our well-equipped labs, library and e- library. We encourage our students to look at the world beyond mere academics by providing a wider exposure through a series of guest lectures and workshops by experts in architecture and related fields. We intend to nurture them to become thorough professionals, responsible citizens and sensitive and good human beings.
Our institute is the first of its kind to publish a research journal bi-annually. We are in the process of developing it as a research centre in the field of architecture and as a part of it we are bringing out a research journal, by name, MADLAB.
We are also active in the area of computing in architecture and are on the way to establish ourselves as a reputed centre in this specialization. We also have established a Heritage Council with the objective of contributing to the field of heritage conservation.
We aim to make our institution a unique one in the field of architectural education.