Published: 08th October 2019
How Anant University is training architects to design with eco-sensitivity and women safety in mind
AnantU Vice President Jasmine Gohil talks about the need to create architects who think deeply about the environmental impact of their designs — as well as making them safe spaces for women
Anant National University is relatively new in terms of its history, but it already features an innovative list of programmes that seem to go beyond the conventional list of architectural courses. In an interview with the university, we learn, or rather get a glimpse, as to what makes them really stand out from the rest of the competition. The more we find out, the more it becomes clear that this is one establishment that is absolutely devoted to design, in every way humanly imaginable. They have even designed their programmes to train future architects to build spaces that keep women safe! We speak to Jasmine Gohil, the Vice President of the School of Architecture, about the journey so far. Excerpts:
The university appears to be dedicated to design and architecture in particular. Why was architecture chosen as the area of expertise? Is the Bachelor of Architecture programme that is being offered the regular one, or has it been modified/adapted/altered to suit current design trends with respect to the environment?
Anant National University began as an architectural institute in 2011, and later, in 2016, the university was established. The formation of the university gave more freedom in terms of innovations in curriculum, making it broader so that our students could come up with multidisciplinary approaches towards architectural design. Talking about the current design trends, I honestly believe architecture is beyond the trends. In our School of Architecture, we train our students with all the tools and techniques they need to come up with the right solutions, which may or may not follow the current trend, and these are created with the utmost care and sensitivity for the environment.
What sort of threat does the environment face at this point in time? Do you feel that modern architects do not pay sufficient attention to creating ‘eco-friendly’ designs? Do they prioritise aesthetics over functionality?
For all institutes imparting architectural education, it is a big challenge that young architecture students are influenced by the branding of building material and related products, which are extremely harmful for the environment. It is the foremost duty of these institutes to expose students to works of good architects who have a sensitive approach towards architecture in the form of materials, built-forms and even unbuilt spaces. We at AnantU invite those architects who have worked on those projects which are eco-friendly yet fulfil the needs of modern lifestyle to come and teach. This kind of training can only lead to an architectural solution which is eco-friendly yet modern.
You have said that each student at the university would be nurtured to become a ‘Solutionary’. What exactly does this encompass, and what might the training constitute?
‘Solutionaries’ refers to those students who not only identify a problem, but also come up with the right solutions for it. The definition of a solution is not limited to their area of expertise. Rather, the solution would be multi-layered and involve a multidisciplinary approach. The students are taken to various sites where architects have offered a solution with this approach. For example, right now our students in their second year of architecture are on a trip to Maheshwar, where they have studied the beautiful ‘ghat’, which is an architectural marvel. The rest of the days were spent with the weaver community of Maheshwar, where they were studying the community houses designed by well-known architect Rewathi Kamath. She has very sensitively designed the houses, community centre and school using vernacular architecture. Such visits develop a certain sensitivity in the students and train them to create a solution utilising a multifaceted lens.
Isn’t it the fundamental duty of every architectural university to provide its students with the necessary training to produce buildings that are considerate towards the environment? Why the need for an exclusive establishment that focuses entirely on this?
Yes, it should be the fundamental duty of every architecture university. However, when an entire university focuses on the sustainably-built environment, it attracts people who are like minded. The collective efforts become much more impactful and we can nurture students who will take this focus further during their career. At AnantU, we are able to collaborate with the best of architects and designers - who are authorities in this field - to come and teach our students because they respect the fact that we are completely dedicated to our mission.
Safety in design: AnantU seeks to weave the element of the occupant's safety into all of their designs
How does your training empower your students to deal with complex issues such as women’s safety? Isn’t that slightly beyond the scope of an architect’s work?
Dealing with issues like women’s safety is very much a part of architectural training because an architect is supposed to design a building which is safe for its users, not only in terms a of building which does not collapse but also a building which is safe for its different users, including children and women. An inclusive and universal design approach is interwoven into the design studios right from the first year. At AnantU, many of our final year architecture students have addressed the issue of women’s safety and come up with architectural and urban design guidelines for public buildings and streets as a solution.
What are the various courses you currently offer?
At the undergraduate level, students can opt for Bachelor of Architecture (BArch) or Bachelor of Design (BDes). The BDes programme is offered in seven specialisations - Space (Interior) Design, Interaction Design, Product Design, Communication Design, Environmental Design, Fashion and Textile Design and Transdisciplinary Design. Anant National University also offers two full-time postgraduate degree programmes - Master of Integrated Product Design (designed in collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania), and Master of Urban Design. AnantU's flagship programme, the Anant Fellowship, is a one-year, full-time, residential postgraduate programme.
A strong and need-blind admission policy is the distinctive feature of education at Anant National University. As India’s first design university, AnantU is committed to making high-quality education accessible to all students, irrespective of financial backgrounds. Students can apply for need-based scholarship, merit-based scholarship, Presidential Scholarship, Governing Board Scholarship or Anant Visionary Scholarship.
Finally, what are 3 things that set you apart from leading design institutes in the nation? Are you worried about the competition?
At Anant National University, we have a track record of involving people who have built and studied in top-notch global institutions. What we're trying to build here is something at par with the best in the world. And to support that, the curriculum we’ve designed is very different from what other universities offer. Most people like to cram the student with lots of knowledge and technical skills, and impose subjects that they have to study and courses they have to learn. Here, at AnantU, we implore students to develop and polish cognitive, social and emotional skills, in addition to all of that. We offer a choice-based credit system wherein students can choose their electives, minors and majors as they traverse through their academic journey. The liberal arts perspective woven in all our practices and lessons also helps us distinguish ourselves from all other universities in the country.