Submitted by Shubhayan M

The First B.Arch Degree Conferring Department Of India Turns 65!

India Architecture News - Sep 5, 2019 - 04:19   5133 views

The First B.Arch Degree Conferring Department Of India Turns 65!

Way back in 1954, six individuals amongst a batch of twenty successfully graduated and were awarded the very first Bachelor of Architecture degree in India. The Department of Architecture, Town and Regional Planning, Indian Institute of Engineering Science & Technology, Shibpur (Erstwhile B.E. College, Shibpur) conferred upon these six individuals, the very first B.Arch degrees of the country, a first-of-its-kind achievement in the country back then!

2019 marks 65 years of the same!

The institute, IIEST Shibpur has undergone myriad transformations over the ages. It was christened Bengal Engineering College (BEC) in 1921 and elevated to the status of a Deemed University in 1992 while its recognition as Bengal Engineering and Science University, Shibpur (BESUS) had come into effect on 1st October 2004. It now stands upgraded to the status of Indian Institute of Engineering Science and Technology, Shibpur, the country’s first IIEST, an Institute of National Importance (INI) under the MHRD, by an official mandate in 2014. The Department of Architecture, T. & R.P. however, has remained to be a constant through the journey!

This department has produced more than 1200 graduates in Architecture and more than 350 postgraduates in Town Planning in the last sixty years and celebrated the Diamond Jubilee of the conferring of first bachelor degree in Architecture in India in 2014-15.

Ar. Deba Prasad Moitra, one of the first six fondly recalls, "In 1949, Bengal Engineering College was the only institution of its kind in entire eastern India. When I applied for a seat in an engineering discipline, there was no mention of Architecture in the information brochure. After some days I received a letter from the College asking me whether I would like to join a new course which was being introduced that year, a diploma course in architecture. I was elated. As long as I could enter the portals of Bengal Engineering College , Shibpur, it mattered little whether I would earn a degree or a diploma at the end."

Back then, all equipment for drawing were imported to the country from abroad. "While the course started out as Diploma in Architecture, within two years of the start of the first batch, the State Government led by Dr. B C Roy, the then Chief Minister of West Bengal, India gave approval for our course to be converted to a five year Degree course, the first of its kind in the entire nation" says Ar. Moitra.

Once converted into a full-time bachelor degree, the new building for the same was designed by noted architect, Habibur Rahman, who also used to visit the studios back then! "It was an absolute delight for us!"

Going back in time, the Department has had its own share of experiences. In 1952, on the request of the then head of the department Prof. Sengupta, world-renowned architect Ar. Joseph Allen Stein joined the department as the Professor and Head, under whose aegis, the Department made rapid progress in the field of architectural innovation in the country. Another highlight would be the visit of Dr. Buckminster Fuller, the famous scientist, architect and inventor to the Department. He had conducted a workshop with the students in 1952 and shared his knowledge and expertise.

"During our thesis period, Ar. Stein brought Richard Neutra to review our works. Neutra was rather old and infirm at that time and lifts were not installed then. He declared that he couldn’t possibly climb so many flights of stairs. The solution was simple. We had him sit on a chair and carried him to the third floor with great enthusiasm", says Ar. Moitra.

It is quite evident that despite being in totally unknown waters being an architecture student way back in 1950s in India, enthusiasm and spirits were always high for the initial six 'BEing Archi's (that's how they identify themselves)! The same continues to date! A visit to the Department on any given day reveals students enjoying life and design at their large, spacious studios. And if you are lucky enough, you might as well get to hear the famous war-cry that the students of the department proudly present at the topmost of their vocal chords- "Maastaraam Maastahal! BEC Bemisaal!". This is the line by which the entire nation recognizes the fierce ones, the Beings!

65 years down the line, in an age of flailing standards of architectural education in the country, the Department is strong on its legacy of producing architecture graduates who are iron-willed, capable, and trained enough to go out in the world, and make a mark for themselves! Dear Department, take a bow!

Top image © Hiran Biswas, a student of the Department.