INDIA: The British Council Architecture Mission

So I am still jet lagged - it definitely gets worse with age - that aside, let me tell you a little bit about my recent trip to India. I returned a week ago from a three week trip traveling in north India with the British Council for my University to promote the study of Architecture. We visited different schools of architecture and gave talks on our areas of research and interest, then met with faculty for discussions on possible virtual studios, student / faculty exchanges and how we can collaborate better and work together.

I started in Delhi at Pearl Academy where I have visited before and we have some exciting projects planned with them, and an exhibition in the making. I had a little time to myself here to revisit some of my favourite landmarks in New Delhi such as Humayun's Tomb (previously visited (here) for a little restoration update and some sketching, Khan Market for a little shopping and eating, and Connaught Place for, well more food but, a little wandering and to soak up the general street activities and atmosphere. 

Next stop was Mumbai where I met with the British Council for their 'Architecture Mission' and three other academics from other British Universities. We were there to represent the Architecture / Engineering / Interiors subject areas within our Universities and speak on these subjects at nine schools in Mumbai and Pune. We visited four schools in Mumbai before heading onto Pune where we visited three. 

Mumbai is the busiest city I have ever been to and feels the biggest, possibly just because it's so densely populated and built. The schools we visited were in the centre but took an hour or so to get from one to the next. Some of these schools were very theory heavy with very old fashioned marble-clad lecture rooms which felt daunting though a little reminiscent of a swimming pools too, some were very modern with green-lecture-theatres integrated into the landscape and orientated to consider sunlight, heat and ventilation. It was difficult to judge the level of student work as most students keep their own work and no record is kept. Some schools were very open to discussions and excited about collaboration and research, one school stood out with student work displayed throughout corridors showing cladding systems, cultural installations, interactive models and much more. 

Pune is a city I had not visited before so I was interested to see what it had to offer. It felt a lot more laid back, on a different pace, however due to our hectic schedule we were restricted to seeing the inside of a hotel room, the view of general indian city streets, the inside of another classroom and back to the hotel. Two of the schools here were female-only and had a huge amount of students studying architecture which really inspired me. I gave a lecture here in a room filled to the brim with studious young designers asking me questions and eagerly listening to me. I passed one my business card and was soon swarmed by them all wanting to contact me about their projects. 

A jam-packed schedule meant that everything quickly blurred into one and days became a little repetitive but the students made the visit, with good discussions and examples of work. On leaving Pune (yup, in an auto rickshaw, case and all) I took the opportunity to visit Sangam for a night, one of the four Girl Guiding centres in the world. It was the perfect stop in my journey to reflect on my travels, the people I met and the exciting projects ahead. I have been to Pax Lodge in London as a Guide (many years ago) but I know of many other guiding friends who have visited Sangam and so this meant a lot to me. The centre is so peaceful and welcoming, the girls volunteering there are all so friendly and really make feel at home. Some have been there for months, some have just arrived. They volunteer at local schools, community projects and they learn hindi, yoga, cooking, and much more. The centre has a large camp ground at the back where local Indian guides and brownies come to camp and they've a jamboree coming up soon. The perfect end to a busy trip.