The Importance of Research in Design
This blog is the acceptance speech by Dr Benny Kuriakose after receiving the doctorate degree from IIT Madras.
Yesterday was the convocation day for the doctor of philosophy degree at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. I received my doctor of philosophy degree for the thesis titled “Housing the Rural Poor in Kerala: A Revisit to Understand Success”. I thank everybody who helped me in writing the thesis. Many people asked why I was pursuing a doctorate degree, and why I needed a PhD. I replied that if I had known how difficult it would be, I would not have joined.
In fact, when I got the Inside Outside Designer of the Year 2001, there were many enquiries for projects from all over India. Those were the days when there were only two or three awards at the national level. But nowadays, every architectural magazine and TV channel are giving awards under many categories. After getting the award, I could have taken on more projects and made my office bigger. But I realised I was reading lesser than I used to, and it was after meeting Dr Prema Rajagopal, who worked at IIT, that I considered pursuing a PhD degree.
I joined IIT Madras in March 2003. Dr Prema was my guide along with Dr Dilip Veeraraghavan, who passed away due to cancer. I dedicated the thesis to Dr Dilip, who went beyond his responsibilities to guide me. It took more than 10 years for me to complete the doctorate degree since I was also practising architecture. Many times I wondered why I did what I did, especially when it occupied so much of my time. However, thinking back, I believe I made the right decision, despite the fact that my architectural career would have evolved significantly at that time.
Although I had no plans to teach, doing the PhD really helped my architectural practice. If I hadn't done the research, I wouldn't have been able to do the Muziris Heritage Project or the Tsunami Rehabilitation Projects the way they were done. I started looking at the projects in a different way and realised the importance of research in design. This will influence many of the projects our office is now working on including the design of retirement communities, churches, resorts, spas, etc. In fact, I will say that the relevance of research in our projects has increased.
I would recommend that all architects do a PhD at some point in their career.