Recently, I had an amazing opportunity to experience the present-day Indian architectural education system. It was an urban planning course and the students were presenting an analysis of the historic part of Chennai. This was the first stage of an exercise what would last the rest of the semester.
The day began with introductions and handshakes. I saw young eager faces, hoping to impress and gigantic quantities of information to convey.
The first group to present studied the physical characteristics of the site. When I initially heard the key intent of the presentation I expected at least some part to be about the land. However, to my surprise, they never made a connection between topography and physical characteristics.
When I prompted the students to tell me about the landscape, to show me a contour map, they seemed to be reluctant. “The site is flat,” was the answer that I got. The 70 acres of the site encompassed one large river bend and two smaller canals. I pointed this information out. I explained that the best evidence to prove the site was flat would be a contour map. Their response was silent. Besides this, when asked to identify three physical characteristics that were unique to the site no one could come up with any. I pointed to the nearest site plan to show how there were exactly three water bodies present on site, and how all three of them were completely unique to that site.