School of Environment and Architecture

SEA Conversations

monsoon 2021

On 16th March 2020, the Supreme Court of India made an interpretation of the Architects Act of 1972 that shook the legislative identity of architects in the country. The Act had prohibited anyone who is not registered by the Council of Architecture (and not qualified as an architect) to use the title of the ‘architect’. For years, this prohibition was interpreted as a prohibition on participating in the building making industry as a designer, supervisor, etc. The Supreme Court’s interpretation severed the two aspects - while it recognised that use of the title of an ‘architect’ is connected to qualification, registration, etc; it ruled that the Act does not provide any prohibition on anyone for participating in the building making activity in any capacity. Even though architects contribute to a miniscule proportion of the built environment, the architectural community felt threatened for its identity and agency.

In response to the fresh economic flows of post liberalization, architecture in India almost willingly took a service-oriented tone, moulding private capital into bold, unapologetic delivery of absolutely new building types. The architectural portfolios in the last three decades have been largely about second homes, private townships, corporate complexes or commercial enclaves. To a large extent, these must also be read as the exigent and inevitable responses to the restructuring of the national economy itself. This has been a clear departure from architects who grew up in the socialist state in providing solutions for large scale affordable housing, city expansions or public institutions.

The new millennium has only brought to fore the difficult realities of the built environment we come to inhabit today – those that have created social and spatial polarizations that are sharper and evident than ever before. This is particularly evident in the increasing number of protests across the world that are deeply related to access to resources, spatial inequality and social differences. Through a sustained disengagement, the figure of the architect is now associated with provision of luxury amenities and servitude to capital, rather than addressing the issues of space within the public domain. Architecture thus seems to have lost its umbilical cord as well as its intellectual ground within contemporary society and must call for a deeper inquiry.

‘Building Agency’ aims to address the question of how architecture becomes relevant for / in society today. There are two main dimensions to this question - how does spatial design shape societal relationships; and how could a spatial practitioner contribute responsibly and potently to the emerging complexities of spatial operation today? The series invites spatial practitioners who have been formulating visions, trajectories, questions, methods and processes through which the environmental apparatus may be configured afresh. These discussions, we expect, will offer useful directions for contemporary spatial pedagogy and practice.

speakers 2021
25/6 CHAAL CHAAL AGENCY \ Ahmedabad-Bogotá
09/7 MATTER \ Goa
06/8 COMMUNITY DESIGN AGENCY \ Mumbai-Ahmednagar
20/8 Dinghaiqiao Mutual Aid Society \ Shanghai
24/9 COOPIA \ Bogotá-Mexico City
01/10 DHARMENDRA PRASAD \ Guwahati
15/10 SAROSH ANKLESARIA \ Pittsburgh

Visit for event details and Zoom links.

This online event series is supported by Urban Centre Mumbai, and is free and open to everyone across the world.



Fields of Alliances /
Cartographies of Cooperation

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Coopia is a cooperative practice that works through pedagogical and spatial processes for the transformation of territory at various scales. It self-manages, articulates and develops projects that recognize the agency of spatial practices. Its ethos is composed of four principles: cooperate, repeat, (re)distribute and refuse. Coopia was founded in 2019 and currently comprises 18 associates from distinct fields of work and experience. They are located between Bogotá, México and Lima.


Marielsa Castro Vizcarra (C. México)
Graduated as an architect from the Universidad Iberoamericana de la Ciudad de México and has a Master´s degree in Art, Design and Public Domain from Harvard University. For two years (2017-2019) she was Chief of Public and Educational Services in the Arts and Other Collections Unit at Banco de la República de Colombia. From 2012 to 2015 directed Liga I Espacio para la arquitectura I D.F. She is currently a professor at the architecture school at Tecnológico de Monterrey in the Mexico City campus.  


Claudio Cuneo Raffo (Lima)
Architect from Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas, Master of Excellence in Architecture and Urban Design from the Berlage Institute in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Founder of LAMBDA, education committed to design, research, criticism and broadcasting of the discipline and other spatial practices. Half time proffessor in the research department and design studio of the Facultad de Arquitectura y Urbanismo PUCP. Co-organizer of POST SCRIPTUM a space for studying and discussing theory from Arquitectura dentro de la ArquitecturaPUCP. Has been a columnist for the newspaper El Comercio, and more recently was the co-curator of the show Cartas al Alcalde: Lima. His work received awards at the XV Bienal de Arquitectura Peruana (2012)  and was selected to participate in the IABR Biennial in Rotterdam (2012) and Buenos Aires (2017). 


Felipe Guerra Arjona (C. México)
Guanabi ácrata in constant becoming and architectural worker moving towards de-professionalization. He is currently part of the PhD program: Philosophy, Art and Critical Thought at EGS and works at the Tec de Monterrey as an adjunct professor. His practice orbits around the relationship between; processes of de/subjectivation, counter-pedagogies, the production of space and the political potency of repetition. He is co-founder and co-director of CAMPO, a non-profit organization that serves as a transdisciplinary cultural platform for research and circulation around themes related to contemporary life. He co-founded and co-directed the architecture office altiplano where he worked from 2009-19.

María Camila Leal Acevedo (Bogotá) 
Studied architecture at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana (Bogotá). Since 2016 she began to participate in more than 20 architecture competitions with various firms and studios and was awarded in 5 of them. Worked with more than 10 architecture and engineering offices in urban planning, architecture and public space projects. Interested in learning from an interdisciplinary and cooperative background, other perspectives, knowledge and practices that develop her in a professional and personal manner. It is currently under construction.


1830 hrs IST

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This online event series is supported by Urban Centre Mumbai, and is free and open to everyone across the world.

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