Chitkara University: Building the Foundations of Contemporary Architecture Education
Ambuj Kumar| Architecture Education |Chitkara University

Has the thought, ‘why architecture is important?’ ever crossed your mind?  A glance towards your immediate surrounding will make you realize that you are captivated within Architecture’s grasp; all the buildings and the designed environment. The purpose of architecture that has stood the test of time is to provide shelter, memorialize and contain our enterprises and even our lives.  While the purpose still remains the same, architecture has changed over time.

With the advent of new technologies and processes, almost every field is undergoing an immense transformation, architecture being no different. The modern architecture needs to embrace the transience of today’s culture and life of the millennial age that worships change.

Powered by this future framework of homes, buildings, working environment or even landscapes that are dictated by tech and AI, there is a dire need for universities to expand the boundaries of architecture with forward-thinking academics and work-integrated practice. The universities should align students with modern architectural methods while keeping in mind both the traditional and contemporary concepts.

Our quest for finding such a school that offers architectural education for the future landed us at Chitkara University. This school of architecture explores how technology and urban design play a huge role in creating buildings that will shape our world for years to come. Chitkara is a premier institute that strives to promote academic excellence and bridge the gap between the real and conceptual components of architecture. The three pillars of its strength include knowledge, applied research, and innovation.

Established in 2004, Chitkara School of Planning and Architecture (CSPA) is a constituent of Chitkara University in Punjab. It is an institute par excellence with infrastructure and facilities matching the international standards and a designed curriculum promoting a human-centric, context-specific design approach. Since its inception, the institute has equipped the students to meet the intricate structural needs of today while keeping in mind the wisdom of yesterday.

A Forward-thinking Curriculum  

It is the university’s mission to be a globally recognized organization promoting academic excellence through interdisciplinary applied research and to expand realms of knowledge through innovation.

The university is committed to providing state-of-the-art infrastructure along with a curriculum designed to meet today as well as tomorrow’s challenges. It offers a curriculum, which directly connects the students to the industry where they are going to work in their near future. It runs a 5-year B.Arch.  degree program, with an annual intake of 120 students. Committed and professionally proficient faculty, led by Prof. Dr. Ambuj Kumar, Director of CSPA ensures that the students widen their horizons by exploring the full spectrum of the discipline, all the while giving full attention to relevance, context, and specificity of the field.

CSPA increased the opportunities for higher studies with the advent of the Ph.D. Program in Architecture, Urban Design, and Development in 2019. Its plans also include starting specialized Postgraduate courses in architecture. It aims to become an intellectual hub for research and development in the field of architecture where like-minded academics and researchers innovate as well as solve the complexities of the world.

Research Publication 

Apart from this, the university also emphasizes conducting research studies. It believes that research forms a very important part of a curriculum. The university’s ‘Creative Space’, a bi-annual refereed architecture journal of Chitkara University encourages students to contribute their findings. This journal has been indexed in several renowned journal indexing agencies such as SHERPA, SCILIT, ZENODO, Scientific Indexing Service, and so on. The school also publishes its monthly newsletter to provide an insight into the month’s activities and projects.

Technology at Play 

To meet the demands of contemporary times, the universities around the globe need to match the industrial standards and expand the very realms of existing knowledge including the academic environment. Chitkara University understands the need to not only keep up but keep abreast of the changing trends in terms of information and communication technology.

Hence, it uses technology to break barriers and achieve milestones. The students of the university have access to the department’s library facility with an exhaustive collection of about 6200 volumes, more than 20 national and international journals, and 26 architectural magazines. In addition to students’ thesis and e-books, other important documentation works have been procured from all over the globe for ready reference to students/scholars.

The university’s computer lab has about 59 workstations equipped and regularly updated with all the latest licensed software like AUTO CAD, REVIT, Sketchup, 3ds Max, etc., relevant to architecture. Besides, the department has a climatology lab, a carpentry workshop, a material lab, and a surveying lab to provide experiential learning. The students have access to laser cutting and a 3-D modeling machine and an Explore hub (aimed at providing a window to the students for their entrepreneurial pursuits).

The school also has spacious, amphitheater-style classrooms, integrated audio-visual teaching aids for lectures and presentations, high-tech laboratories having equipment with calibrations to ISO 9001-2000 Certifications.

A Place to Belong  

Chitkara University believes that a university is not only about lectures and books, but it is an experience of a lifetime to grow, learn, innovate, create and exchange ideas. Adhering to the aforesaid, the university also stands out in offering platforms that nurture its student’s holistic growth. To talk about the architecture department, CSPA, apart from providing exceptional educational facilities,  also conducts a variety of extra-curricular activities. The students of CSPA have been divided into four houses viz. Ajanta, Ellora, Sikri, and Modhera, wherein many annual and bi-annual functions with themes about art and architecture are organized and competitive activities are held. Sports form a crucial part of the curriculum. Special sessions are held on business etiquettes, negotiation skills, effective communication, leadership, teamwork, and analytical skills.

CSPA also organizes various cultural events on national days and annual students’ fest. The institute takes great pride in commemorating birth anniversaries of master architects through thematic competitions of poster making, sketching, quizzes, costume parades, and so on. The university celebrates World Heritage Day wherein the students organize a public exhibition of the historic places documented by them during the year and also visit the neighboring village schools to document their buildings typologies and sensitize them on their region’s natural resources

Preparing For World Stage 

The students of CSPA experience and learn through regular seminars and workshops aimed at cementing the academia-industry relationship for achieving brilliance in their careers. Students are acquainted with newly emerging career options such as architecture journalism, architectural photography, parametric architecture, and the list goes on.

As mentioned above, we have discussed how the institute’s tech-powered campus, curricular activities and a student-centric curriculum brings out the true potential of its students. However, that is not all that this institution has to offer. CSPA believes that its student’s talents and skills are not be limited to just keep them pinned within the borders of the country. It nurtures its students to be globally competent and to thrive in this fast-paced world. Hence, it offers them with every plausible platform to learn, discover, and innovate. The university’s global connections and collaboration with foreign universities are one of them. It organizes week-long workshops annually where numerous visiting faculties from its global partners conduct lectures and workshops with the students to show pathways leading towards success.

It also has an active Semester Exchange Program with Universities of Alicante and Barcelona in Spain. The Students Mobility Program under ‘Erasmus+’ has also facilitated an all-paid semester exchange at Middle East Technical University (METU), Ankara, Turkey.

The university has also organized workshops with the Ecole nationale superieure d’architecture Paris-Malaquais and Ecole nationale superieure d’architecture de Toulouse, France, and the Tokyo University of Science.

Recently, the university collaborated with the Tokyo University of Science, Japan to research traditional water resources. As a result, two faculty members and 10 students visited Japan in November 2019 for joint studios with their students and paper presentations on their documentation of step-wells in India.

Furthermore, it also offers an intensive 20-week internship and prepares students for research and academics. Also, the school hosts on-campus incubators such as the ‘Explore Hub’ providing multiple opportunities for entrepreneurship.

Aid at Every Step 

CSPA also offers financial grants for meritorious students, including sponsorships for participation in advanced/extension courses and various competitions in India. For students, fully-funded semester exchanges are facilitated through the Erasmus Plus program. Soft loans and  ‘Earn-while-you-Learn’ schemes are also available on a ‘Merit-cum-Means’ basis for funding capable students in times of need.

The Glorious Odyssey  

The school has many accreditations and accomplishments and continues to embark on its journey to excellence. CSPA has been accredited by the Council of Architecture (Formed by the Government of India under the Parliaments’ Architects act 1972). It has won several accolades at the Annual and Zonal Meets of National Association of Students of Architecture (NASA); NIASA Awards for Excellence in Under-Graduate Architectural Thesis (2014 & 2015); INTACH Heritage Awards for Excellence in Documentation (2016, 2018). Also, it has acquired top positions at the Earthquake Resistant Design Competition at IIT, Kanpur (2017); the Interior Design Competition by the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) (2017), and so on.

It has also been ranked 7th in the category of Super excellence and 2nd rank in the Northern region in GHRDC Architecture Colleges Survey, 2018. It was recognized by Silicon India magazine as the 10 Most promising Architecture Colleges in 2019 for facilitating impeccable theoretical and practical knowledge.

Evolving and Learning Together  

Striving for excellence by exploring our students’ potential to the zenith, this statement has been emblazoned at the very core of the school. It believes that education is a two-way process. Hence, it believes that by expanding its realms of existing knowledge higher, wider and deeper and seeking the wisdom offered by the master architects, one can build timeless monuments. “We can use our collective imagination to uncover truths and create living spaces that are in harmony with nature. We can teach and in turn learn from our students as we together embark on this beautiful journey into tomorrow,” comments Dr. Kumar.

He concludes by sharing a quote from Albert Einstein, “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” 

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