Just A Qualified Architect

Sussanne Khan is being discussed in various architectural groups, on Social Media and even offline. She has been booked for cheating by Panaji Police for allegedly projecting herself as an Architect. The Architects Act, 1972 protects the use of the title ‘Architect’.

Goa chapter of Indian Institute of Architects may be initiating an action very soon in this matter, and, if the allegations are found correct,  it is possible that the Council of Architecture, India may also take a suo motu action against Sussanne Khan in this case. Comments from the CoA are still awaited.

Shamit Manchanda, architect based in Delhi, and, Chairman, Northern Chapter IIA, shared:

“There are questions of liability that need to be addressed. An Architect takes responsibility not only for the design but also life safety in terms of structure, fire etc. An Architect is trained for the same and only qualified persons are given registration under the Architects Act. Time and Again the Council of Architecture has made public announcements on who is allowed to use the title of Architect.”

Below, Abhishek Bij, an Associate and Lead Designer at Design Plus Architects, New Delhi, and Principal at Design [+] Design Research discusses the Act and the use of the title.

The current FIR against celebrity Sussanne Khan re-opened a chapter that has been relevant to the architectural fraternity for decades. Ironically, despite its impact on everyone and their life processes, discussions on Architecture are never in vogue for a larger audience.  Here is my attempt to piggy back on Sussane’s FIR to drive home a point. Interestingly, the news is covered in Bollywood section of every daily.

Sussanne Khan claims that she is not an architect but a CREATIVE DIRECTOR. This reply to the accusations clearly states that she is well aware of the law of the land. That is:

SECTION 37 of the Architect’s Act 1972 – WHO CAN USE TITLE

Prohibition against use of title- (1) After the expiry of one year from the date appointed under sub-section (2) of section 24, no person other than a registered architect, or a firm of architects shall use the title and style of architect. This section has to be read in conjunction with SECTION 24 and 25.

This is where I believe the loophole lies. The term Architect is often used as a metaphor – Nehru was the architect of modern India or Virat Kohli was the architect of yet another successful run chase. However, The definition of an Architect get its true meaning in professional capacity during the practice of Architecture. It cannot be or rather should not be circumvented by simply abandoning the use of the mere word. The COA in-fact has a legal interpretation handy with them that culls the surrogate nature. It states that any definition – building designer, creator, dreamer, creative design incubator, another inventive position – which suggests practice of architecture; shall be within the domain of the title of an architect, and hence prohibited. In any case, this loophole is substantially addressed in the Architects Amendment Bill of 2010. So as soon as the Bill turns into the Act, these naïve armors for non-architects shall disappear. Although, it’s already long overdue.

Returning to Sussanne Khan – I do applaud her knowledge. She definitely knows more about the Architects Act than most practicing architects. But, then again, you have to know the law when you intend to circumvent it. Sussanne Khan is not the only celebrity who is operating within the domain of Architectural Design. There is Twinkle Khanna, who is an interior designer. However, we came across an image shared by one of the members of the fraternity, where she was projected as architect of ‘Supertech ORB’ project.

It’s quite damning that while the world of Architecture debates the term “Starchitects or Star Architects” with reference to Late Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaus, Norman Foster, Frank Gehry etc, we have our own interpretation of the very term. On second thought, it is actually quite sadistically hilarious.

Architecture predominantly is governed by its patronage. Unfortunately, the private-sector patronage is governed essentially by ‘presumed sale-ability’ at one end of the spectrum OR ‘L1 business models’ at the other. This bi-polar approach leaves our cities and citizens with 2 diverse building types but not Architecture. Class 101 for any Architect – Buildings are NOT Architecture but a subset of it. Architecture operates in a larger realm of space, psychology, construction, theory, engineering, economics, politics, materiality, sustainability, abstractness, art, humanity and much more. Hence the bi-polarity of building Types is a reductionist approach to begin with.

  • BUILDING TYPE 1 – Presumed Sale-ability – The super expensive but market-able real estate entities where celebrities CREATE a forced need for their involvement. Here, they behave as surrogate Architects under the banner of creative directors or concept designers, carefully staying away from the use of the title of an architect. Since, they have not earned the respect of being an architect, their patrons rely on their incumbent fame to sell their respective products. Real Estate, in this case, bank on the gullibility of the market. This gullibility is further fuelled by lowered benchmarks, as described in TYPE 2, and general ignorance about architecture. This to a great extent is also true with the entire “Foreign Architect” scenario. But that whining with facts can wait or be referred at – HERE.
  • BUILDING TYPE 2 – L1 Business Model – This essentially refers to the practice of hiring architects at 1/10th of the cost or not hiring them at all (for example, engineers offering design services also OR Builders clone stamping existing designs). Popularly known as – Award to the lowest bidder. This heavily compromises on quality of designs generated. It is unfathomable, how a quantitative assessment can be made on subjective matters. This model of engagement ensures that mediocrity is the benchmark for our cities.