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School of Architecture & Design News
Aug 02 2012

Architecture Students Return from India with New Insights

India Architecture

A team of NYIT students enriched their cultural awareness on a five-week educational trip from June 7 to July 17 in India, where they studied exemplary Modernist works by Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn in the context of ancient rock-cut stepwells, traditional forts and palaces, and contemporary towers by leading international architecture firms.

The immersion began with visits to architectural sites such as the Rashtrapati Bhavan (presidential house) in New Delhi, the Taj Mahal in Agra, the Government Complex in Chandigarh, and the Institute of Management in Ahmedabad, and culminated in a two-week design studio at Sir JJ School of Art and Architecture in Mumbai. The program was coordinated and led by Farzana Gandhi, assistant professor of architecture, as well as Matthias Altwicker, associate professor and chair of the Department of Architecture, and Jason Hwang, adjunct professor of architecture. Judith DiMaio, dean of the School of Architecture and Design, joined the group for their final presentation in Mumbai.

"The opportunity for NYIT architecture students to engage with India firsthand is integral to their education toward becoming 21st century globally and socially-minded design thinkers," Gandhi says. "What makes India unique is that its architecture, environmental, and construction methodologies are rooted not only in its own history, culture, and religions but also in external global influences."

India's booming economy has made it a hotspot for building in the outskirts of major cities, and students observed the urban sprawl firsthand as they sketched on-site and noted ideas. Despite the escalation in building, the country faces unique challenges to the development of adequate infrastructure and affordable housing.

These real-world challenges confronted students as they applied skills acquired in NYIT classrooms to a final studio presentation on developing new ideas for a low-rise/high density, mixed-use housing proposal. Through intensive freehand drawing and analysis, each student cataloged personal observations of spatial conditions such as those of a courtyard, thresholds, layers, boundaries, frames, and lattice screens called jaalis—all commonly found in Indian architecture. Students learned to understand and apply these design elements in their own projects.

"This exposure for students is timely given the country's unprecedented rate of urbanization and acts as a lens through which alternative design models that foster culture and community can be offered as a reaction against the contemporary Indian condition of fragmented high-rises, super-blocks, and isolated gated communities," Gandhi says.

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