Notes : Learning from Ekalavya

Reading notes from the essay ‘Learning from Ekalvya’ on architectural education by Charles Correa

Correa brilliantly argues about architectural education in this essay : He broadly categorises two types of studios : guru studio and distancing studios. In guru studio “The master, coming to your desk, would pick up a thick grease pencil and draw a bold line, changing things radically: the proportions, the cornice, the depth of the shadows, whatever. “Not this—this!” And you learned because you trusted his judgment, you entered the gestalt of his world. ” In the distancing studio, the students learns from their own process and judgement beyond the ‘idiosyncrasy’ of the guru studio. Correa argues that a school needs a good balance between these two types “The system would also allow a school to use its faculty to much better advantage—because it would make explicit the differences between the two types of studio, permitting each of them to be run with minimal cross- sniping. So that gurus who have their own idiosyncratic and intuitive design skills could return to the atelier model of teaching without being accused of reckless brainwashing, while those teachers that run the distancing studios would not be criticized for not being “designers,” or “creative” enough, and so forth.” One of the sharpest sentences from the essay (and thus the story of Ekalavya reference) is that “This is why the presence, however hallucinatory, of the guru is so important. Through our trust in him, we teach ourselves.” 

And there is another sharp observations on our expectation from students from design studio :”..on the contrary, students (regardless of any inherent aptitude for the astonishing mix of analytic, synthetic and topologic skills that make up the design process) are compelled to take such a studio every semester, for five continuous years— and it is always the heavyweight in their schedule, preempting enormous quantities of time and energy. Each semester these unhappy students are presented with brand-new problems, often in complicated and subtle contextual situations, and then asked to come up with new and brilliant responses, possibly expressed in an architectural syntax of their own invention. In the entire hisory of our profession, very few architects have managed to pull that one off— even once in their lifetime! Yet we demand this of each student, in each design studio. The result: dismay and frustration (and at several universities, among the highest stress rates of all departments) “

This essay is from the book “The Education of the Architect : Historiography, Urbanism, and the Growth of Architectural Knowledge” edited by Martha Pollak. It is available in open access format from MIT Press.