Project Description


The Past as Present

Pedagogical Practices in Architecture at the Bombay School of Art

“The Past as Present: Pedagogical Practices in Architecture at the Bombay School of Art” is available for reference and purchase at UDRI Resource Centre.


An exhibition curated by Mustansir Dalvi.
From the last decade of the nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth, architectural pedagogy in the School of Art, Bombay was dominated by documentation, decoration and design. Architects in the city in a single half century would move from Post- Renaissance Neo-Classicism, to the Neo-Gothic, to the Indo-Saracenic, to Edwardian Baroque Neo-Classicism once again, before settling on the Style Moderne. The preservation of the Indian craft tradition, which was one of the cornerstones for starting the School of Art would crisscross with issues of Style, leading to an eclectic learning. The reliance on precedence, whether Indian or Western generated the understanding of first principles – from whence these traditions of architecture emerged.

This was accomplished through observation, documentation, measurement and drawing of buildings on site. The curriculum prescribed the copying of existing architectural details and the documentation of extant architecture of note prior to making designs that were relevant for the day. Published portfolios of architecture like Jeypore Portfolio of Architectural Details by Swinton Jacob (1890), The Design Development of Indian Architecture by Claude Batley (1934) and the many editions of Bannister Fletcher’s canonical A History of Architecture on the Comparative Method amongst others formed a significant resource for architectural learning.
In this book, we trace the influences of documentation, decoration and design on architectural pedagogy and architectural practices in India in the late 19th and early 20th century at the Sir JJ School of Art, Bombay. In these pages are the many original drawings made by the students of the school, prints from the portfolios of Jacob Batley and Fletcher and glass ‘magic lantern’ slides that explore this interaction. As a testimony to the diverse strands of aesthetic understanding and practice, we present a representative portfolio of drawings made by noted modernist architect Achyut Kanvinde during his years as a student of the Sir JJ School of Art, which, placed between the dichotomy of tradition and modernism, provides a glimpse into design churnings prevalent at the cups of Indian independence.


  1. Introduction by Mustansir Dalvi
  2. The Past as Present
  3. Documentation as Reconstruction
  4. Pedagogy as Perception
  5. Design as Synthesis
  6. Portfolio as Testimony
  7. Behind the Beautiful Drawings
  8. Acknowledgements