Award (controversy) Barefoot Architects
On July 4, 2002 The Hindu reported that Barefoot College,1 Tilonia has returned the prestigious $ 50,000 Aga Khan Award for Architecture “following the award foundation’s decision to rewrite the original script of the citation to include the name of a Delhi based architect, Neehar Raina”. The initial citation spoke of “construction of the Campus by an illiterate farmer from Tilonia along with 12 other barefoot architects, most of whom have no formal education”. The revised citation reads “A young architect Neehar Raina prepared the Architectural layout and an illiterate farmer from Tilonia along with 12 barefoot architects, constructed the buildings”.
According to the report Mr Raina, who worked on the Tilonia campus for a project funded by CAPART in the eighties, had complained to the Foundation in March about his name not featuring in the citation, following which the Foundation had appointed “senior architect Romi Khosla to investigate. In April, Mr! .Khosla visited Tilonia with Mr.Raina and held talks with men and women on the campus”. Subsequently the Foundation revised the citation. Mr Sanjit (Bunker) Roy of Social Work and Research Center / Barefoot College says in The Hindu, “The decision to change the citation came as a surprise to us in Tilonia. We had agreed to give Mr. Raina his due as a designer, but not as an architect” and that they “disagreed with the revised version” of the citation.
The report says that Mr. Raina was paid Rs.72,000 and according to him all designs and drawings of the buildings were made by him. According to Mr Roy “There was no question of accepting Mr. Raina as architect since he was a beginner and still learning from the elders in the village. We had, however agreed that Raina could be acknowledged as a designer.” Mr Roy also said, “Mr.Raina was not involved in any capacity as far as the building of rain water harvesting structures or homes for homeless are concerned. His contribution was only towards helping to prepare an initial layout of the Barefoot College campus. In this too, he vastly benefited from the knowledge and wisdom of local people, including rural women.” The report says that the “complaint from Mr. Raina was for inclusion of his name, and it did not seemingly involve any claim over the award money. In the process, he however termed the Barefoot architects as mere masons and supervisors who executed his designs and ideas.” Mr Roy is quoted saying, “We are unable to accept the claims made by Mr. Raina as far as his own contributions are concerned as well as his disparaging description of the role played by our Barefoot Architects”.
He also laments “The success of our endeavours since 1986 led to their being recognized in the award. It is an established practice in our society to ignore and leave unacknowledged, the often-extraordinary contributions made by the ordinary people. The whole class of people have thus remained invisible throughout history in spite of their brilliant creativity just because they are poor and illiterate.” About returning the award Mr Roy says, “It has been an agonizing decision for all of us at the Tilonia campus. Our integrity is more important to us than any honour”.
How barefoot is Barefoot College?
The USP of the acclaimed institute at Tilonia near Jaipur that it was built by unlettered ”barefoot” architects has now become its Achilles heel, with a Delhi-based architect winning credit for the design that bagged the $5,00,000 Aga Khan award for Architecture last year.2 The foundation has revised its award citation’which had earlier credited an ‘illiterate farmer’ to pencil in the name of Neehar Raina. His name is also included in the text and credit displayed on the foundation’s website.”
Aesthetics of the resource-poor characterizing third world architecture, expropriation: NGO Architecture and its clients. We are confronted with a range of issues in South Asia, issues that are rigidly framed - modularized - and constraining. Considerable energies are spent in raising Frames of Reference that try and fit the South Asia architect’s experience into somebody else’s image: not asking as to what it ought to be, but whose fairy-tale should it fit into, and to what ends?”
- 2002-07-01: Tilonia’s Barefoot campus, now the bare facts.3
- 2002-07-04: NDTV: “Village architects return Agha Khan award” by Rajan Mahan
- 2002-07-31: Frontline: An award controversy by Sunny Sebastian.4
- 2003-06-01: Comment in Global Built Environment Review by Rajat Ray
“The larger question therefore is; is the prevailing definition of professional architecture becoming defunct in the present world order and therefore needs to be rejected or must the attacks be tackled with force? Does it indicate that the universal nature of a singular, abstract modern definition of architecture, almost a metonym of modernism itself, is under pressure in the contemporary world and needs to make way for an infinite number of interpretations to be utilised by powerful interest groups of various hues in a myriad different contexts: is it really going to be ‘architecture without architects’ everywhere”…
- 1. Barefoot College website: barefootcollege.org
- 2. Aga Khan award citation available via www.akdn.org, accessed July, 2002
- 3. Tilonia’s Barefoot campus, now the bare facts by Sonu Jain, The Indian Express Jul 01, 2002
New Delhi, June 30 How barefoot is Barefoot College? The USP of the acclaimed institute at Tilonia near Jaipur—that it was built by unlettered ‘‘barefoot’’ architects—has now become its Achilles heel, with a Delhi-based architect winning credit for the design that bagged the $5,00,000 Aga Khan award for Architecture last year.
The foundation has revised its award citation—which had earlier credited an ‘‘illiterate farmer’’—to pencil in the name of Neehar Raina. His name is also included in the text and credit displayed on the foundation’s website.http://www.webcitation.org/5rXkb2Q3B on 27 July 2010.
- 4. An award controversy by Sunny Sebastian, Frontline Volume 19 - Issue 15, July 20 - August 02, 2002
The Barefoot Architects of Tilonia decides to return the Aga Khan Award in protest against the revision of the citation by the Aga Khan Foundation giving much of the credit for the award-winning work to a Delhi-based architect.
THE Barefoot College Tilonia has decided to return the Aga Khan Award for architecture it received in October 2001, following an unseemly controversy. The $50,000 triennial prize was awarded to the barefoot architects of Tilonia, for their “exceptional contribution in building rainwater harvesting structures, homes for the homeless and the barefoot college campus” until one who felt left out from the titles asked for his share of the honour sometime early this year.http://www.frontlineonnet.com, last accessed Aug, 2012