We Stress on Onsite Learning in Architecture Study: Dr. Om Prakash Bawane

Established in 1993, RV College of Architecture (RVCA) has come a long way establishing itself as one of the premier architecture colleges in the country. RVCA is a constituent unit of RV Educational Institutions.

IIRF correspondent had a candid discussion with the Principal of RVCA Dr. Om Prakash Bawane on the educational philosophy of RVCA and its journey toward excellence in architecture education.

Question QWhat is the core philosophy that guides the new breed of architects at RVCA?

The pragmatic approach to the grooming of budding professionals would be to have a right mix and emphasis on academics, practice and research. It is essential to equip the professionals of tomorrow with strong theoretical inputs with adequate exposure to contemporary architectural practices. At the same time the teachings in classrooms and studios should be strengthened with knowledge drawn from research and practice in core and allied areas.

Question Q

Would you highlight the approach to design teaching in RVCA studios?

Architecture is a design centric profession, hence it is natural that Architectural Design occupies a central place in the curriculum of five-year B.Arch. course. Students in design studios are mentored by a team of highly qualified faculty consisting of practicing architects along with specialised core faculty. The studios are concept driven, with contemporary design and construction practice inputs from the industry experts. The learning experience is enriched by intermediate reviews and juries conducted by inviting eminent architects from the profession.

Question Q

The current pedagogy emphasises on experiential learning, how has RVCA integrated this aspect in its teaching-learning?

Appropriate architecture is not only a product of building design, but also a representative of society, its culture and values, and its impact on the environment. The Architectural Profession has evolved over time, new techniques of construction and materials and improved skill sets have emerged and posed new opportunities for architecture education.

Experiential learning or learning-by-doing processes encompass the learner to be directly in touch with realities along with getting constant feedback for improving the process and the desired results. Experiential learning is the apparatus in which the learner is subjected to situations where the student develops and assesses his/her critical thinking abilities, thus allowing freedom for creative articulation as an intrinsic motivation.

At RVCA, the core subjects Architectural Design  and Building Construction along with the electives encourage hands-on approach as a good proven practice to enhance problem-solving skills. Students are given projects which involve working on realistic sites and context, construction techniques, working with different materials from sustainability point of view, and using appropriate technology as well as tools and presentation skills, thus  preparing them well for the profession. RVCA has skill labs that are integrated with learning-by-doing for Arts; Crafts like model making  and Pottery; structural testing labs; Graphic design; Computer applications and simulation tools as well as Geographical Information Systems (GIS).

Students’ assignments require visits to construction sites, industries, experience centres and interaction with specialists such as Hafele, Locator India and others. These experts are invited on a regular basis to conduct knowledge and skill enhancement programs for faculty and students.

We also offer a two years Masters degree course (M.Arch) specialising in Urban Design. This degree prepares the students in investigating the urban milieu and providing real time solutions to the complex challenges of our cities. The Urban Design Research Consultancy Cell was initiated to provide exposure to our students in live projects of the city. For example, the students explore neighborhoods and map their transitional changes over the years to comment and discuss sociocultural, environmental, economical and infrastructural tenets. Some of the recent explorations include documentation of precincts of Bengaluru such as Mavalli, Basavanagudi, Malleswaram and pilgrim cities such as Pandharpur, Sravanabelagola, Rameshwaram etc.

Question Q

What exclusive facilities have been established at RVCA to strengthen its skill enhancement initiatives.

There has been a thoughtful strategy for enhancing the infrastructure for enriching the experiential learning at RVCA. The investment has been made on two distinct fronts, first the human resources and second, the physical infrastructure. On the human resource front, our faculty include experts from academia, industry and allied professions and are responsible for the student’s overall development.

On the infrastructure front, as already mentioned, we have state-of-art facilities such as skills labs, digital labs, construction workshops etc. We are shortly going to initiate our fabrication and lighting labs also.

Question Q

What are the learning opportunities available for RVCA students outside the walls of the campus?

This is an integral part of our teaching-learning approach. On-site studios in context-based design projects are a common feature. Opportunities to learn practical aspects of construction and architecture technologies are provided by taking students on project sites on a regular basis. Our students also actively participate in Design competitions mentored by the in-house faculty such as Solar Decathlon, AYDA etc to name a few here. Students get exposure to local, regional and international styles of architecture by attending the domestic and international educational tours. Our faculty regularly engage students in heritage documentation, which is an equally significant wing of the course. We often collaborate with knowledge platforms such as Locator India who showcase the latest products from the industry beyond the classroom.

Question Q

There are always concerns from the industry about the graduates coming out of colleges not being industry ready. How has RVCA been successful in addressing this issue?

The grooming of budding architects at RVCA revolves around preparing the graduates for tomorrow’s challenges.  Intense involvement of practicing architects in studios keep students abreast of current practices. Our students get a taste of the profession in three ways – firstly, the internship period of 16 weeks in their final year, secondly Onsite-Insights: a set of recurring open house events curated by inhouse faculty inviting eminent architects, thirdly the placement cell  to guide and assist students with the best available professional opportunities. In addition, our students are well equipped with architectural digital tools, updated with latest softwares such as Skethup pro, Revit,  Geographical Information Systems and digital graphical skills on associated products.

Question Q

What are the other extended learning and higher education opportunities available to the students of RVCA?

We have academic collaborations with various universities and institutions such as KU Leuven, Belgium, KR Mangalam University, Centre for Development Studies and Activities, Pune, that provide research based learning opportunities as well as expose them to teaching-learning philosophies of other academics. Students can take advantage of these memoranda to expand their learning.

We also provide a platform to encourage and give our students an exposure to the best higher education opportunities across the world. GlobEd, a higher education guidance cell has been formulated to invite world renowned universities and their educators to inform about the courses they offer, career prospects and the admission processes.

Question Q

Would you highlight some of the accolades earned by your students? 

To reiterate, our students have been consistently doing well in national and international competitions. Some of the worth mentioning awards include Excellence in Architectural Thesis , an award instituted by the Council of Architecture, Solar Decathlon, Asia Young Designer Award, Asian Rookies Award and Asia young Designers award (AYDA).

Question Q

What are some of the initiatives that enhance their capacities beyond architecture?

The students are provided opportunities to learn beyond architecture through symposiums, workshops, seminars, additional technical courses (academic writing, portfolio making, presentation and rendering, vastu shastra etc.), soft skill training programs etc., that host experts from various allied disciplines. With these, the students get exposed to diverse and critical perspectives on some of the complexities in the field and inturn learn the ability to empathise whilst creating responsive environments. For example: Our in-house publication, Kalpa, an annual research magazine invites students and experts from the field to articulate on varied themes. The current and the last editions covered aspects of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG11) and Migration respectively. We have received interesting responses in the form of articles, expert interviews etc. Student teams (Editorial, visualisation and marketing) actively participate to get the works together. Subversion, our upcoming annual journal has been curated along similar lines to invite expert articles on the challenges of a rapid urbanizing world. We also have RVCA Crossroads: a platform that brings together alumni and experts to discuss diverse topics allied to architecture such as art, drama, dance, music etc. RVCA Upshots is yet another initiative to encourage soft skill development among students such as entrepreneurial abilities, wellbeing through Yoga etc.

Question Q

Could you highlight some of the student driven activities at your institution, beyond academia?

Our students are given the opportunity to join the varied clubs such as the music club, theatre, quiz club, craft, etc based on their interests. Through these clubs, along with the faculty mentors, the students bring about interesting programs that liven the campus. The clubs come together to host cultural events as well. The annual exhibition of RVCA called Dimensions is one of the biggest student-driven festivals in Bangalore. The event witnesses the perfect combination of learning (through expert talks, panel discussions, workshops, etc), engagement (bringing together architecture students from across the state with added responsibilities of team-work, management), showcase (of the student works across all semesters) and fun (through cultural events).

Question Q

What, according to you, puts RVCA as the best and sought-after institution? What are the essential skills that the profession sees in Students that differentiate them.

At RVCA, we consistently strive to bring out industry-ready candidates not simply with best academic records but also with altruistic abilities that sets them apart from the rest. We are equipped with faculty who have specializations ranging from Design, Urban Planning, Conservation, Arts, Humanities, Sustainable development, research etc. They instill in them the need for a thorough inquiry, critique and bring out an investigative approach for curating holistic resolutions.

Leadership qualities are one of the important keys sought by any profession and organization and it marks a good. Indisputably leadership skill most sought-after skill after design skill. One of the best feedbacks that we have received from the industry about our students and we quote “Students are curious and fast to learn with good software skills, they assume responsibility and deliver and have good leadership qualities”. This is a testimony to our incessant efforts in creating excellence through students’ intrinsic motivations.

Question Q

How does architecture as a professional degree course nurture students to be responsible citizens?

Architecture has always nurtured a user-centric response. In our course, we integrate sociological tenets that give students opportunities to understand and work for all streams of society. This brings about a sensitive tone to their design. In addition to this, we have the NSS team including student volunteers who take up charitable initiatives such as blood donation camps, government school campus renovations/renewal, plantation drives etc. Our membership with the Rotaract or the Rotary foundation also embarks upon similar objectives to sensitize our students with the local challenges and collaborate with citizen groups.



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