A three-hour drive took me to MARG Swarnabhoomi, a multi-service SEZ located on East Coast Road, 90 kms from Chennai. Nestled inside this township is MARG Institute of Design and Architecture Swarnabhoomi, (MIDAS), an educational initiative of the MARG Group. Launched in August last year, MIDAS has 56 students on its rolls now.
The 43,000 sqft institute is affiliated to Anna University, Chennai. Its five-year Bachelor in Architecture course has been approved by Council of Architecture, New Delhi. Its director, Prof Jaffer AA Khan, promises that a different batch of architects will be created through MIDAS, as they concentrate more on the practical aspects of design and encourage students to think out of the box. MIDAS has a hostel, design studio, computer lab, library, swimming pool and basketball court.
Professional architects like P Manohar, designer, National Institute of Design, Pune, and Jacob Jebaraj, sculptor/ painter, Cholamandal Artist Village, Chennai, also lecture at MIDAS regularly. “We are very choosy about who we invite as we don’t want to have a diversion of ideas. We are looking at the amount of knowledge and experience they (guest lecturers) have in the field. These lectures will be recorded and we later review it for any changes,” says Khan. “I applied to various colleges before arriving here. When I came here, the faculty just floored me. The highly qualified teachers take great effort to introduce lessons out of the syllabus so that we have enough exposure,” says Varun Venu, a student at MIDAS.
“Teaching must motivate students and bring out the passion in them for architecture,” opines Prof Khan. Both practical and theoretical lessons are offered and exams are very competitive. “For every model or design that we do, we have to provide the professor or examiner a reason as to why we have designed it in such a way. We reason out our plan and then design the model according to the theme,” says V Arvind, a student at MIDAS.
They are having discussions with NID, Pune, for a bachelor programme in design to be launched in the next academic year. Collaborations with Virginia Tech, USA, and University College London’s Bartlett School of Architecture are on the anvil. In another three years, they will introduce a master’s programme in alliance with a foreign university. To summarise, these passionate students are ably assisted by their professors .