Intern-mentorship Program CAF

On June 24, the Chennai Architecture Foundation (CAF) would launch the internship-mentoring programme for architecture students. The objective of this programme is to make the one-year training period and stay at office enriching and educative.

A year ago, an intense conversation among a group of architects about quality of internship and education concluded with a firm idea to improve internship programme. Six architecture firms based in Chennai volunteered to commit their time, resources and funds to develop a flexible training-structure and provide multidisciplinary inputs, and create opportunities for interns to observe, reflect and create a better-built environment. The CAF has coordinated with the firms and came up with an experimental programme.

The six firms are now ready to drive a pilot version of the internship programme. In the coming weeks, they would come together to share their ways of working, discuss their practice, and join the young architects to reflect on the discipline. After six months, the CAF and volunteered firms would review this pilot. They would share views and experience with other interested architecture offices in Chennai, and seek larger participation.

Why this programme?
Recent changes to the educational structure have compelled architects to relook at ways offices offer and conduct internships. Under the new structure, the trainees would spend almost a year in an architect’s office. This makes the training period more than a short, professional excursion. It becomes a formal extension of the education programme. Professional architects, as never before, feel that they have consciously to create, explicitly state and clearly provide adequate opportunities for students to learn. The CAF views this as an opportunity and an essential need to address. It has proposed a year-long programme that would be coterminous with the training period.

Structure

The internship-mentoring programme would be in addition to the time trainees would spend in their respective offices. Students would be anchored to the individual firms that select them for an internship. They would participate in programmes organised by the consortium of six offices that will include, design exercises, project visits, discussions, travel and workshops. As a part of this programme, students could move between offices, subject to the approval of the firms, and spend some time in different offices.
The contents of the internship programme would cover 12 modules. Each module is organised around a theme and would include events, discussions and workshops. There would be fortnightly discussions with architects, artists, filmmakers, historians and people from different fields about their work and approaches. The events would be held either in a common place or in different offices. The schedule would be announced in advance.

Trainees are encouraged to make full use of these programmes by reading the texts given, joining the conversation, making field trips and enthusiastically participating in the events organised. They should maintain a dairy – physical or virtual – throughout the programme, which would be more than a logbook. They are encouraged to create blog posts or write their views and experiences in any medium of their choice.

Learning Units
In all, there would be 10 learning units. The first five are detailed below and would be taken up in this half year. The remaining would be completed in the following part of the year.

Mod 1: Self and Society
Architectural education often presents design as a completely individualized endeavour – ideas emerge within the architect’s mind; the designer is the absolute author, and city and things around have any bearing and so on. The design briefs with a bare rectangular site plan and no other contextual information are common. Visual uniqueness and novelty as measures of creativity are extensions of this position. As a result, the public purpose of design, buildings as space that facilitates social relationship, materials as a collective resource, and environmental responsibility are seldom part of the building process. Design education is not sufficiently grounded in political and social conditions.

To reflect about this, the internship programme proposes a learning unit on self and society. This would help students to examine the relationship between their self and the world around, question notions about individuality and collective, and introspect their position as designers. Best way to go about this is to hear stories about people, historical movements and institutions that question the relationship between individual and society.

The CAF would launch this year’s internship-mentoring programme with this unit. Speakers would include a noted historian and writer, visit to a school that pursues alternative form of education and conversation with an educationist, and watch a film along with a filmmaker and critic.


Mod 2: Making of a building
Behind-the-door stories about building are not only juicy and fascinating, but also hold the key to understand that decisions about buildings are not often made only on technical grounds. Many things are at play – power, prejudice, capital and so on. Architects would share their experience about how they straddle the worlds of conception and persuasion.

Mod 3: Writing and reading Architecture
Select texts relating to architecture and building projects would be circulated in advance. Texts would include both Indian authors and others. During the meetings, moderator would read extracts and conduct a discussion around these texts. There would be writing workshops to develop communication skills and research briefs. Students would be encouraged to come with a topic and discuss them with the resource person to develop broad ideas into a reasonably persuasive story proposal. Professional copy editors would review their writings and would discuss ways to improve them.

Mod 4: Travel
Travel to a historic site or a visit to a series of contemporary buildings would be organised. Architects and resource persons would accompany the students and walk them through the buildings, and converse about the design and construction of the buildings.
To start with, this year, the students would travel to Hampi for a few days along with three resource persons

Mod 5: City and Buildings

Buildings and cities are inextricablylinked. Building norms and master plans, in a sense, almost determine the built form even before the design is conceptualised. High impact buildings could change the face of an area. At times, individual buildings have to defer their decisions in the interests of the larger city block. This module would explain the different scales of city planning and how individual buildings are affected by larger decisions. It would also focus on the creation of public realm and norms

Remaining five modules areas follows:

Mod 6: Engaging Technology

Mod 7: In a construction site

Mod 8: Art and Science

Mod 9: Carpentry and Pottery

Mod 10: Economics of a building

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