Intent & Objectives
SEA expects to create:
- A vibrant academic space that is able to: develop new knowledge through fostering as well as undertaking and supporting research activities in architecture and related fields; develop and impart relevant courses that respond to emerging geographic, socio-economic, cultural, political, and technological contexts; and act as a catalyst in societal processes through active (community) engagement with everyday issues that concern life.
- An education that is critical in orientation; sensitive to physical, socio-economic, and technological contexts; imaginative in terms of exploration and innovation; relevant in terms of engaging with discourses and technology; fostered through self-led research; and capable of producing interventions that are implementable in terms of realisation and buildability.
Considering these objectives, the following principles are drawn:
- Centrality of space and form: SEA considers that the primary role of an architect is to imagine and craft new spaces and forms for habitation. SEA also believes that space and life have a dialogical relationship and they continuously make each other. As the primary role of an architect is considered to be imagining new space, it is also about imagining new life.
Environmental Thinking: At SEA, Environment is referred to as a larger set of physical and social conditions within which human life takes place. Architecture is a configuration of physical space and form and is capable of structuring behaviour, personalities, communities, societies and (hence) life. While the environment sets up imperatives for architecture, architecture in turn shapes the environment. SEA is interested in exploring processes where architecture and environment constantly make each other.
- Academic Space for all: An academic space is an ecosystem that interrogates life and finds new ways to engage with the world. It includes activities of research, education, and production/dissemination of knowledge. At SEA, effort is made to create academic space for all, where access to resources is maximised, individual space and freedom is guarded; and differences of opinion/thought are respected. Teachers are expected to have a vibrant academic and professional life and students are encouraged to ask difficult questions.
- Integrated Approach through Modules: Every semester is conducted as a set of modules, which are workshop-like events with a single focus. Various subjects, which are otherwise taught as silos, are grouped together to form a single module. While the module system ensures an integrated approach, it also creates an intensity in thinking and working, where deep, sustained interrogations are possible.
- Design as Method: All courses start with a provocation followed by a series of linear/non-linear, ordinary/extraordinary, logical/irrational explorations to articulate readings and responses. Here, design becomes a method to see the world, make inferences and intervene. ‘Design as a method’ is different from design as a ‘solution’ or an ‘object’ (of desire). It is a visceral and personal process to engage with the world.
- Technology as Experience: Along with the abstracts of mechanics, prescribed knowledge on materials and standards of construction details, technological courses are engaged with through a strong environmental discourse and experiential explorations. The effort here is to develop contextual responses that are not limited to utilitarian imperatives, but also to cultural dimensions and aspirational aspects.
- Ethics beyond logistics of the profession: At SEA, architects are considered as custodians of environment and culture and clients as entities affected by the built-form beyond the ones who pay for it. Education is embedded in an ethical framework that is based on the premise that alteration of physical space affects social space, culture and environment. Equality, justice and freedom are core values within which education takes place.
- Updated and Relevant to the emerging contexts: The engagements with digital technology, new media and emerging construction technologies are beyond the use of applications and are mobilised to fundamentally rethink the ideas of space and form. New courses are initiated that are important to contemporary times. These include courses on emerging housing, South Asian architecture, repair and retrofitting and post intensive landscapes.
- Field based courses and engagements with community: Students and faculty are encouraged to actively engage with different kinds of fields and various types of communities. This is important not only to develop skills of engagement, but also to develop new knowledge.
- Riyaz & Contact with the world: The idea of riyaz is at the core of SEA. Riyaz encompasses the notions of perpetual experimentation of thought, practice, self-evaluation and growth. While riyaz may tend to be insular, another idea - ‘contact with the world’, is mobilised to constantly confront one with the questions of the world. This entails constant interaction with persons who have deep rooted engagements with varying contexts.
- Research based academia: Research forms an integral part of education at SEA with twin agendas: first, to develop an investigative and interrogative attitude amongst students; and second, to generate new knowledge in the field of architecture. Research activities are undertaken as research projects by faculty teams and also as part of courses, where students become partners in the process of creating new knowledge.
- Culture of drawing: At SEA the discipline of architecture is considered to be concerned with understanding and exploration of space and form. This requires thinking in spatial terms - to think of the universe as a set of entities and relationships between them that can be identified in space. As entities and relationships are multiple, simultaneous and non-linear, they require languages that are non-linear to understand and explore. We call these languages as drawings - not only as a noun, but also as a verb (to draw out - to identify, tweak, change, alter - entities and their relationships). The drawing is also an entity that is charged by the energy of the self and is capable of producing an experience - which is its aesthetics. The ‘culture of drawing’ is considered to be key in the shaping of life at SEA.
- Culture of Interrogation: At SEA, the role of an architect is defined as to imagine (and thereby to become a catalyst in the production of) new spaces and forms. Space is defined in its widest sense to include physical space, social space, conceptual space, and as an entity that includes everything including practice. In this way, space is directly connected to life - it becomes the imprint of life and it helps in producing life. To imagine and create new space, an interrogation of existing spaces (and life) is essential. This culture of interrogation is key to all activities at SEA.