In 1996 an Indian architect wrote: 'My architecture is only 2'6" deep [referring to the building facade], since the rest of the plan is determined by the building bylaws and developers.' The architecture of India's booming cities is indeed widely criticised for being mediocre. Yet, it is precisely in large cities that architects have successfully competed with licensed civil engineers and
building contractors. The latter used to be more commonly in charge of design and construction, and effectively so. If not for their design skills, why did architects come to be important actors in building up India's cities? Through a historical investigation of the Indian architect's discourse, knowledge circulation, professional network, nature of practice and the residential architecture of their hand, this dissertation reveals how in the 1960s, architects distinguished themselves from others who designed built form. It is argued that the architects' self-portrayal as experts on taste was necessary to obtain legitimacy and to sustain the profession's existence, but with changing patronage became irrelevant, leading to an identity crisis. By engaging with Bourdieu's theory of distinction and
Gieryon's 'boundary-work' the thesis reveals the historical roots of today's impasse in the profession. It illustrates how cultural and social capital, besides the possession of professional skills, are critical in shaping professionalization trajectories in a postcolonial context.