Theory and Criticism
Are there masters and disciples in architecture?
    "Knowledge has to be organized so it can be taught, and it has to be reduced to information so it can be organized do you follow that?"

    William Gaddis, JR, p. 25

Architecture is an ancient field and have always contributed to the evolution of mankind in a very forceful manner. The presence of a master to bestow, sustain and transform is thus essential in this field. A master is someone who has made quantum creative leaps in his/ her own fields. So, then who is a disciple?

In the search that followed I have come to understand the origin of the word disciple from the Latin word "discipulus" meaning one who is learning any art or science from one distinguished by his accomplishments. The word I found had its first origins in the New Testament and further analysing the New Testament and the Indian philosophies I have found that:

    1) A disciple is closer and is chosen by the master
    2)Should have undying commitment to the cause and to the master
    3)Give everything up for the master-sacrifice is essential
    4)Self denial of yourself and your thought process for the master
    5)Carry on the works of the master, even after his lifetime.
But architecture is a thought process independent of any inhibitions or regulations. Accepting discipleship, you are denying yourself of your thought process for the principles of the master-thereby curtailing your creativity. So then the question arises are there disciples in architecure?

Please do contribute to this discussion.

Dhanya Elias
Are there masters and disciples in architecture?
Dhanya, An interesting thought. I think you need to define the essence of what a Master (of some art or science) is?

If a Master is one who creates a set of principles by which an activity can be (a) known of, (b) learnt about and then (c) enable creativity. Then yes there are Masters with Disciples who use the Master's Principles to create even after the death of the Master.

Then there is no self-sacrifice of creativity by the Disciples because they can create freely within the Master's Discipline. Furthermore, those Disciples who are able to create and conceptualise can add concepts within the Principles of the Master.

For myself, a Master is one who can create and teach principles. Whereas, the person who creates something and is unable to conceptually translate and teach the essence is not a Master. So sitting at the feet of a person who hides within mystery or who misuses long words or unknown words to create mystery is either a fake or confused.
Frank John Snelling
Are there masters and disciples in architecture?
Thank you Frank.

Yes I also agree to the fact that a master is someone who can actively contribute to the betterment of the society, individual etc in his own field or rather it can also be an extension into other fields too...

But, the concept of Master is quite clear in one's own way to each of us. We have all felt the presence of some person or the other who have given us information and helped us in transforming. Thus, I believe that a Master should enable one to TRANSFORM.

But my question is, as well: are there disciples in architecture? Strictly speaking, architecture being a creative field and idea being a volatile being one cannot be termed as masters or disciples. But then, there are examples of profound transformations and influences. Are these people Disciples? Discipleship then becomes a topic for debate.

I hope I could convey the message clearly. Thank you once again,
Dhanya Elias
Are there masters and disciples in architecture?
After graduating as an architect from Mumbai, I thought I need to find one master who can introduce me to the essence of architecture. And, after 8 years, I have still not found anybody who can teach me architecture! I guess it is just impossible for anybody to do that...

What I feel after a lot of search on my part is that only you can be your best master and also a disciple. It is difficult to do that as it involves a continuous process of learning, relearning and unlearning.
Tushar Koli
Are there masters and disciples in architecture?
Dhanya, Okay, the nearest that people in architecture today get to "master and disciple" relationships is when the style of "a School of architecture" is recognised and written after having been in existence for some time.

There is the "Frank Lloyd Wright" Foundation in America which teaches and immerses students in the works of "FLW". And obviously most university "Schools of Architecture" develop differences through being influenced by powerful academic individuals, etc. But as these Schools do not teach design but instead criticise design, they cannot be Master and Disciple Schools because the conceptual discipline they use is negative and not positive.
Frank John Snelling
Are there masters and disciples in architecture?
Thank you Tushar. Your response is a new line of thought. But considering your argument brings in a lot of questions.

If there are no masters, then why do we call Le Corbusier, Louis Kahn, Frank Lloyd Wright, etc. as masters? Are they masters because of their quantum achievements or are they masters as they have been elevated to the position of masters by their followers or the so-called people who emulate their styles?

Why are they masters? Who is then a Master?

Masters are present in every walk of life because there are disciples to follow them. So are these people who emulate, get inspired, etc., disciples... Even when we learn, relearn and unlearn something, who then provides us with the wisdom to chose between the right and the wrong?

Thanks again for the response. Please do keep contributing.
Dhanya Elias
Are there masters and disciples in architecture?
Western minds may not fully understand the sacrifice and self denial of a disciple for a master. It is a well accepted in the oriental way of life. However, the life of Jesus & his disciples and the prophets of the Old Testament are fine western examples.

Although they are buried deep under the western quest for "individualism", many terms or ideas from religion and philosophy may not have a pure transalation of meaning into architecture. You'll need to deduce, rather, how much architecture has changed these meanings to suit itself.

To be more clear: how are these meanings reinterpreted by architecture in teaching, in apprenticeship, in the atelier, as an art, as a science, etc.?

Picking up your strand of transformation, I think you need to study that transformation to know actually what the disciple is really worth. This transformation will give you an idea of the ingenuity, originality of the disciple and the essence of what he has learnt from the master.

If some of his master's style of work is left even after a long period of transformation, that maybe the essence of what he has learnt. The unnecessay appendages (to him) would be left off.
Thomas Oommen
Are there masters and disciples in architecture?
Dear Dhanno ! ;-)))
well every situation involves a give and take relation ! Wot u grab from soemwehre u give back elsewhere.Similarly,a disciple is fulfilling his duty of grabbing that info from some one,who qualifies to be his master,and like a continuous chain - he will hand down his info to soemone else down the line, and inturn he assumes the role of a master. The whole idea of a master cannot be compared to as inhibiting or regulating ones thought process... he takes on the role of a guide-a mentor, not necessarily influencing someones line of thought.True, ur said statement in a field like architecture and in the creative world would hold good,where plagiarism in general is just an act of getting inspired.Every disciple is inspired by and would try to embibe his "MASTERAL" ideologies eventually.
I definitely see a strong cohesion between the two.

yezzzzzzzzzzzzzz.........GUD LUK !!!
Delkash S
Are there masters and disciples in architecture?
Thank you Del...

You have been helpful along withy the rest, as with above discussions now I can conclude that discipleship in architecture is not inhibited, and is largely based on the period of influence as I term it. Therefore there can be long term discipleship and a short term internship.What is now prevalent is the short term internship..with a general give and take relationship between the mentor and the disciple..Then the question arises what do we eventually learn through these short term relationships..and does this know how help in better understanding of the design process and if so then how much?
Dhanya Elias
Are there masters and disciples in architecture?
Delkash S
Are there masters and disciples in architecture?
Hi Dhanya!
Looks like u've already come to some conclusions. But reading through everything written, I'd like to add this:
It is said that primary task of any master(guru) is to teach his disciples how to 'learn'. According to ancient Indian sysytem, education was holistic. SO a person trained to be an architect would also be taught philosophy,Literature, poetry, grammar etc. The idea is that this will equip the disciple to face life situtations & make ethical judgements both professionally and in general life(in those days both were not watertight compartments). This is acquiring of knowledge.
But greater preminum was placed on wisdom in those days than knowledge. So the next step for the disciple was to travel far & wide in order to gain experience thereby transform his knowledge into wisdom. Finally he settles down to start his career, so to speak. But this career again is initiated under the tutelage of an able master, of whom during his travels the disciple had heard or seen his works. Of course the master should be willing to shelter him under his wing.
The acts of self-denial & intense commitment to the master was part of the process by which one could further ones knowledge & wisdom. But caution has to be excercised here.
Self-denail & commitment to master does not mean denial of thoughts. The education that equipped him to deal with life, it was assumed, will also endow him with the capacity to analyse his master's teachings & principles and accept as his own that which appealed to his own mind and logic. He was not forced to believe blindly in his master's principles. The judgement as to its validity was his own. And at anytime that the disciple felt that he did not subscribe to his master's principles, he was free to leave & train further under a different one.
This is true for all fields of learning - pure philosophy, arts, literature or any other.
In fact it is in this very fact that the uniqueness of Indian religion, philosophy & the arts exists. Everyone had their say, as long as it was valid & logical and could be proven. Otherwise India could not have produced 6 systems of philosophy with innumerable interpretations and at least 6 different schools of architectural thought of which just 2 r prominent today.
As to fervent commitment to cause, it remains an ideal to this day, in the field of architecture as in any other.

Thus speaking, in an ideal situation, accepting discipleship does not mean curtailing creativity. It just means chanelling your creativity in a particular direction & the freedom to change direction when the need is felt.

As to masters, well they were disciples once. Had they blindly continued on the path shown by their masters without exercising their own thougts & ideas, they themselves wouldnt be masters today.

To end, there is the famous story of Ekalavyan. When Ekalavyan wanted to train under the master Dronacharya, he refused to accept him as a pupil. Ekalavyan then made an image of Dronacharya & taught himself as though training under the master himself. Such was his commitment to his master & the cause.
There are and will always be disciples in architecture.
Kshama Satish


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