Prof Anand Achari, Principal, VES College of Architecture

Founded in 2018, VES College of Architecture (VESCOA) has become one of the top-tier architecture colleges in India. By focusing on developing a holistic approach towards an environment of learning, innovation, integration, and leadership, VESCOA intends to develop an architectural education that is replete with humane, socio-cultural, environmental, technological, aesthetic, and philosophical values. “Our college was established with the vision of developing a vibrant knowledge-oriented environment and a centre of excellence in the field of architecture, contributing towards creating a sustainable, humane habitat. The inculcation of value-based learning, developing an ambient environment for research, encouraging creative innovation, and sensitizing designers towards their role in creating a sustainable, humane habitat are the factors that inform our mission,” says Prof Anand Achari, Principal, VES College of Architecture. 

Located in Chembur, Mumbai, VESCOA enjoys several benefits like having a large green campus shared collaboratively with other disciplines, globally competitive infrastructure, as well as consistent, grounded guidance in institution building. In addition to this, the college also has its own governing body constituted by senior-most luminaries of the Indian architectural fraternity, who have used the wealth of their experience and wisdom to envision VESCOA’s projected role in contributing to the future of architecture in India as well as on the global stage. 

Equipped and Ready 

VESCOA takes sustainability to a new level with interesting insights that could prove to be more effective in the long run. By collaborating with over 10 industry organizations, the institution has imbibed the principles of sustainability within the pedagogical framework of the architectural training. With a Gold membership from US Green Building Council (USGBC), as well as its collaboration with the Delhi-based firm Environmental Design Solutions (EDS), VESCOA perseveres to teach students to approach design sustainably and responsibly. The college conducts detailed workshops that greatly benefit students with hands-on experience in designing Green Buildings and Climate Responsive shelters. Hafele India Pvt. Ltd., an international company with expertise in hardware, fitting, and electronic locking systems, is one of the collaborators that VESCOA had the opportunity to work with. The company organized a CDP (Continual Development Program) for VESCOA students and faculty in January 2021 on Mastering Kitchen Design. A tie-up with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) for training on DfGE (Designing for Greater Efficiency) has been inked and a workshop on the same was also conducted for students. 

By providing state-of-the-art laboratories and workshops for Services, Surveying and Levelling, Environmental Studies, Computers, Carpentry, and Model-making, VESCOA aims to be at par with the global best in terms of training infrastructure. Students make good use of these facilities for academic activities and assignments, being thus armed with practical knowledge and hands-on experience. Apart from the course, the institute also offers elective courses on Material & Technology, Theory & Ideations, Advanced Simulation for Buildings, and Urban/Rural Studies to engage students from various backgrounds, be it basic, intermediate or advanced, or even at a professional level. In addition to this, the college conducts weekly Club Activities to nurture individual talent like writing, photography and sketching. Thanks to this all-around training, certain VESCOA students were awarded scholarships from the Suman Tulsiani Trust in 2020. Shani Sharma of VESCOA’s 2nd year was a recipient of the prestigious VES Shreshtha Award for 2020, awarded for the exemplary display of leadership, values, and high moral character. 

Adopted and Adapted 

Addressing the daunting challenges of COVID-19, VES College of Architecture realized early that it could pose a major setback to the intense amount of practical learning students normally need to become proficient architects. The course in itself manifests as a highly tangible learning process of deliberate actions taken with space, scale, material, and form. Thus, the pandemic and remote learning model that the students and faculty were forced to implement came with an equal amount of adaptation, re-shaping of ways, methods, resources, and mind-sets to align with the new normal. 

With Google Suite, VESCOA students adapted to this remote learning endeavour on account of the wide range of applications it offers, with tools that go beyond simple online lectures/classes and Webinars. “Google Classroom was used to enable sharing of reference material from e-libraries and other sources, collection of assignments, and marking attendance, while Google Meet was used to conduct online classes. Platforms such as Google Jamboard and Concept Board facilitate online studio interactions using graphic and textual tools so that design drawings and concepts can be threshed out on the (virtual) drawing board,” shares Prof Anand. Google Street View was also used extensively to substitute the real-world exposure needed to gain domain knowledge in a different place, culture, and architecture, for everything from case studies to site visits. With online education, the college is in the process of digitizing labs to keep up with the technological and physical developments that will prepare a future-ready generation of budding professionals. 

To increase interaction online, VESCOA organized several socio-cultural events to motivate students and staff alike. Faculty mentors were assigned to each student for individual and group interactions for guidance and motivation. These adaptations helped VESCOA maintain the vibrancy of its learning atmosphere and ensured continued productive academic and co-curricular interactions. “Though forced on us by a terrible Pandemic, the lockdown showed us our hidden adaptive strengths and opened up different possibilities in the method of conducting the business of teaching. While sensitizing us to value our liberties and access, it has also increased the resilience of our teaching-learning processes,” Prof Anand affirms. Looking Forward

 As an architects, it is important for us to imbibe various fields, cultures, societies, economies, polities, terrains, ecologies, as well as timelines and their intersections. Architects need to be well equipped to understand how each element interacts with each other and must acquire the rational, analytical tools to understand the dynamics between their architecture and its tangible and intangible surroundings. VESCOA adopts an integrated system of instruction that uses Ekistics, a scientific approach to the study of human settlements, to train its budding architects in handling such cross-sectional interactions. This Ekistics-based approach instils the spirit of scientific inquiry into the mutual impact between a piece of architecture and its universe of elements over the short and long terms using rationalized models and matrices. “By this, we ensure that architects passing out from VESCOA think critically of the spaces they’re commissioned to design and beyond, to the environment from which those spaces are carved – aligned with our institutional mission of creating a sustainable, humane habitat,” says Prof Anand adds. 

Collaborations between students, teachers, and professionals are the key to learning, realization, discovery, and integration; to become able leaders in the profession and in society. These interactions constantly encourage students to balance their learning approach, preserve the values of traditional systems, and simultaneously working towards experimentation and innovation. With continuous academic rigour, VESCOA prepares students to become proficient architectural practitioners by being equipped to handle the changing needs of the industry. To stay updated with global advances, the institute regularly incorporates relevant training modules and material demonstrations within its academic curriculum. Prof. Anand informs, “Thus far, we have conducted such programs on a wide range of aspects like advanced software skills, knowledge of Green Buildings, intricacies of Interior Design, and Tall Buildings,” shares Prof Anand.

Motivated to be Innovative 

At VESCOA, students are given the liberty to nurture their interests and build on them throughout their course. “The generally adopted practice of teaching these as separate, distinct subjects under the prescribed common syllabus leaves it to the students to figure out the interconnections and apply them in their projects, which they may or may not do during their five year course or thereafter,” opines Prof Anand. VESCOA takes a dynamically structured approach that integrates these different aspects of architecture. “While planning the course schedule for each semester with an integrated approach, every week’s teaching module is designed to connect across the relevant design, technology, and humanities sections applicational to be imbibed as a composite block of learning. This allows the various subjects to be absorbed by the students not just as a holistic package but also through a demonstrative process. Such innovations also keep the faculty actively engaged in inventive thought and explorative processes in the realm of teaching,” he adds. 

Being a young institute, VESCOA continues to invest its best efforts into infrastructure to create a vibrant, inspiring, and competent learning environment for the students, who are budding professionals of tomorrow. In this regard, the college intends to support them in various ventures that they may take in the future. VES has initiated the VES Atal Incubation Centre, where students’ innovative ideas shall be seed-funded after formal approvals by the governing members. Thus, they encourage and promote the spirit of entrepreneurship. “To this end, we all remain committed and endeavour persistently to provide relevant support facilities for every student’s physical and mental wellbeing and growth,” says Prof Anand reassures.

The Future of Design 

VESCOA plans to expand its base and includes different aspects of architecture under its wings. in 2020. We inaugurated our School of Design that presently offers an Interior Design Diploma course. In addition to this, it has also instituted 8 short-term certificate courses on Virtual Reality, Artificial Intelligence in Design, Photography, Product Design, CRD, Advanced Building Simulations, and Remote Sensing. VESCOA is soon to launch a course on Interior Construction Management for students, professionals, and recent graduates, in collaboration with IIID, ALM, and Skill India. 

Currently, VESCOA is actively working on receiving accreditation from the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) to officially certify its status as an institute of quality education in the design arena. Prof. Achari adds in conclusion,“We are an enthused and inspired team of educators who endeavour each day to promote our vision of creating sustainable, humane habitats for the bright future of our planet through the inculcation of values, skills, and knowledge in the next generation of design professionals.” shares Prof Anand. 

Prof. Anand Achari, Principal, VES College of Architecture

Professor Anand Achari works as an architect and teaches students at the graduate and post-graduate levels for 19 years. His primary focus of teaching is towards environmental architecture and sustainability. He was the Head of Department of Post Graduate course at Rizvi College of Architecture for 7 years and taught graduate students at various architectural colleges for 19 years along with practicing Green building certification in India for the past 10 years. He has certified many buildings under USGBC, IGBC, GRIHA, and the following credentials: IGBC AP, GRIHA Trainer, EDGE Auditor, and Expert, ECBC Master Trainer. Currently, Prof Anand is a faculty member at USGBC and a fellow at the Indian Institute of Architects and a member of the World Society of Ekistics, Greece. He is pursuing his PhD at IIT Bombay and conducts various courses in the colleges based on Sustainability and Green Buildings.

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