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A Tribute to Indian Women Architects

A Tribute to Indian Women Architects

Zaha Hadid herself has said that architecture is ‘a man’s world’. The talented powerhouse that she was, Hadid managed to break many glass ceilings in her lifetime to become a household name in architecture. Given the incredible heights that Hadid has achieved, the least we can do is avoid restraining her in an unequal correlation of men is to women architects- Hadid was crazy talented, and no match for any of her male contemporaries. Women architects in the West may slowly be getting their due, but the lack of attention given to Indian women in the field is a lingering concern. We look at some of the sharpest and artistic architectural minds that have shaped our buildings.

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  1. Perin Jamshedji Mistry

The first professional female architect in India, Perin was born in Bombay into a family that had been in the construction business for four generations. Mistry is credited with building the first runway for the country’s busiest airport, in Bombay. In the 50 or so years she spent building, she designed everything from churches to factories, to houses.

 

  1. Urmila_Eulie_ChowdhuryUrmila Eulie Chowdhury

Another pioneering personality, she is best known for her close collaborations with Le Corbusier in planning and building the North Indian city of Chandigarh, the new capital city of post-Partition Punjab. She was also appointed the Director of the School of Architecture of Delhi in 1963. She was also an avid furniture designer, like many other female architects of her time.

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One of Chowdhury’s signature pieces

 

  1. Sheila Sri Prakash

A natural genius and a born artist, Prakash gave her first Bharatanatyam Arangetram (official showcase) at age six. With the kind of personality that turns everything it touches into gold, her entry into architecture, which took place sometime in her 20-year performance career, was quite phenomenal. She is the first Indian woman architect to start her own firm, Shilpa Architects, and is credited for founding the modern discipline of Spaciology, the study of spaces and the way people interact with them. A conservationist, she is known for her thorough insights into the micro-constraints that define each construction. As a professional performer, she excels in Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi, Veena, Classical Indian music, painting and sculpting. Oh, and she also makes movies.

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Adityanar Nursing College

Adityanar Nursing College

Read an interview with Prakash here

  1. Revathi Kamath

The queen of mud architecture, Kamath is, like any true genius, uncompromisingly versatile. She is responsible for introducing the concept of the ‘Evolving Home’, a home that is able to absorb the changes that occur to it over time. Her 33 metre high steel JSPL Gateway in Chandigarh incorporates tribal patterns, and shows off her unique capability to bridge the traditional and the modern.

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Desert Resort, Mandawa Rajasthan, built entirely of mud

Desert Resort, Mandawa Rajasthan, built entirely of mud

  1. Neera Adarkar

Neera Adarkar is a visionary academic and urban planner. Her pathbreaking contributions include the study of public and private spaces from a gendered perspective, and close case studies of the relation between people and spaces. Her seminal paper Gendering of the Culture of Building, calls for gender-equal interventions at the policy level.

neera adarkar

 

  1. Chitra Vishwanath

Architect Chitra Vishwanath is perhaps the most interesting personality to make this list. She blurs the lines between mainstream and alternative buildings. Chitra’s projects also reflect a deep sensitivity towards ecology and architecture. Her constructions not only interact with the people that inhabit them, but also with the environment. These images of the architect’s works using various methods of Earth construction drives home our point.  

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Chitra Vishwanath

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  1. brinda sounmyaBrinda Somaya

Brinda Somaya was documented by Mary Woods in  Women Architects in India: Histories of Practice in Mumbai and Delhi as one of the pioneers paving the way for a smooth transition from the traditional to the modern, and for the conservation of vernacular building styles. The challenge faced by India is very peculiar, and spans the spectrum between the upgrading of slum settlements, to the sustainable building of high-rises, as firm’s website poignantly points out. She is one of those rare architects that dreams of the future with an open admiration and respect for historical heritage, while keeping two feet planted firmly in the present.

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The restored St. Thomas’ Chapel in Mumbai, for which Brinda won the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage award

  1. Samira Rathod

Samira Rathod is an award-winning architect and teacher, known for her conscientious building techniques that attempt to lift the pressure on the environment, in terms of resources, and the optimization of spaces.

samira rathod

broacha house

Check out one of her mind-blowing home designs here.

  1. Anupama Kundoo

Like Samira, Anupama is both an architect and designer, a wholesome combination of things. Her speciality is material research, and she is constantly filled with ideas on how to make construction and urbanization more socio-economically and environmentally beneficial.

anupama kundoo  wallhouse

wall house auroville

  1. Pravina Mehta

Mehta’s interests were diverse, ranging from politics to design, and this multi-faceted perspective is what makes her stand out. Her political activism (which once got her into jail) helped her contribute unparalleled insights into the building of post-Independence Navi Mumbai. Her saying,  “When a woman is truly committed to her career, when there is an inner compulsion, she ceases to regard herself as a woman but only acts as a professional”, poignantly reflects the very struggle for self dignity that female architects face, even today.

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Vashi Creek Bridge, Navi Mumbai


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  1. Ar.Ranjeet Kaur Johal

    Great architects and their extra ordinary conribution in our profession.

    Good documentation.

  2. Wonderful! Thankyou for posting this …i work in Materials. Particularly Glass and Steel and found this post fascinating ! I know some of these lovely people and am happy to see them here !

  3. Kulwinder harsahai

    Great peice of writing. Missing the name of didi contractor. She may be indo American. But doing wonderful in himalayan ( dharmshala) region.

  4. Ahana Mitra

    amazing ……many corners of women talent unfolded

  5. Parthasarathy k s

    Looking at them..the architects and their creations ..One would say this field legitimately belongs to Women

    Chitra built my Home .

  6. Sanjeev Chhabra

    Excellent research and write up. Thanks for adding to our knowledge. Architecture and Design is a popular safe and house wifely career choice for girls, with the idea that a woman can manage ‘family responsibility’ and design free lance.
    Nothing is farther from the truth. So these women are truly praiseworthy.
    Btw, you need to correct Brinda Somaya ‘s name in the blog

  7. SRIDEVI RAO

    This is brilliant! Thank you.

  8. Suneet Salvi

    Some of the most best Indian architects are mentioned here. Happy to read this article. There are many more distinguished ladies like Shimul Jhaveri Kadri, Rohini Mani and many more equally talented lady architects all over India who have been missed out. So another article with the other lady architects is a must.

  9. smita

    Really Great creations u girls made……

  10. It is wonderful to know about the women in this field!
    I would like to know more.

  11. wonderful compilation!
    i like to document some of the wives of architects who are architects themselves to capture the professional challenge and opportunity.
    if there is a room for collaboration, please contact me at the email provided below. best, mansee

  12. Hans Geiger

    …..mes compliment, Mes Dames !

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