Dr. Vibhuti Sachdev qualified as an architect from the School of Planning and Architecture (New Delhi) in 1989. After a period spent in practice and research in India, she undertook a PhD in architectural theory at the School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London), which she completed in 1996. She was later Lecturer in History of Art in the University of Sussex, a post that she left in 2004 to return to India. She has worked as independent writer and lecturer and as consultant on conservation projects.
Dr Sachdev is an authority on Vastu Vidya (India’s traditional architectural theory). Many of her publications concern this or related knowledge systems, and their expression in architecture and art. She has worked extensively on the city of Jaipur, focusing on its architecture and craft traditions. She is the co-author of two books on the city. Building Jaipur (2002) uses Jaipur as a test case for exploring changes in planning theory and practice in India between the pre-colonial and postmodern eras. Jaipur City Palace (2008) discusses both the visual and social cultures of the city’s primary former royal residence. Since publishing these books, Dr Sachdev has been a consultant on the restoration of the Jal Mahal in Jaipur, was the design curator for the artwork of its pavilions and the co-curator of the exhibition ‘Painted Pleasures’. Her latest book is on the Festivals at the Jaipur Court.
Architecture is about designing solutions. In order to design, we look around us for solutions that already exist. We look in to our past to learn how it was done before and why it was done that way. We reflect on the various methods of design and on why some methods fail while others succeed. The design process that begins as an idea or image in our heads is scrutinised by our knowledge base of architectural History, Theory and Method and sifted through several cycles of questioning and rationalising before it is ready to appear as a solution before the world. In traditional Indian thought, there are two types of professional skills: vidya and kala. Vidya requires the power of speech and kala can be practices without verbal communication. Shastric texts define many kalas that are skilled but essentially manual and many vidyas, which are areas of expertise requiring intellectual knowledge. According to this definition, architecture is a vidya: it is a system that is primarily verbal and intellectual.
Critical reading and writing strengthens our knowledge base and brings clarity to our thought processes, which in turn improve our design ability. Writing also improves our communication skills so that we are able to explain our design clearly. After all, as architects we have to defend our designs to clients. Hence, honing ‘critical thinking’ skills to develop the intellectual basis of architecture is one of the highlights of the pedagogy at SSAA. Apart from this, other pedagogical and research emphases of the School include: ‘heritage’, ‘sustainability’ and ‘art and aesthetics’ and ‘hands-on learning’. Building upon these, we hope to develop research and make a mark on architectural and planning pedagogy at the global level.
The school has now expanded its Masters programmes in Architecture and Planning to bridge the gap between its Bachelors and Doctoral programmes. It is also launching for the first time in India, two new Bachelors Programme to address the gaps in architectural practice and the construction industry. This will contribute towards upgrading skills of research in the country. The school is in the process of positioning itself as a resource centre in the region, providing capacity building and training opportunities for professionals in the field. We also aim to establish a permanent gallery and archive centre of the Modern Indian Architects, work on the first SSAA Journal of Architecture: Veranda has already begun and it’s expected to be out early next year. With over 60 fulltime faculty-members and around 800 students, SSAA is poised to achieve greater heights.