The Architecture of India has been inspiring generations of architects for a very long time, then be its traditional architecture or the paradigm of modern architecture. The architects in India have knowledge, expertise, and skills in equal measure with the western architects, but are still underpinned. The revered in the likes of B.V.Doshi, Charles Correa, Raj Rewal, Joseph Alen Stein, and various others have many enthusiastic projects in their name. It’s high time we acknowledge their contribution, the following is a small list of the lesser-known Indian architects.
1. Urmila Eulie Chowdhury
(4th October 1923-20th September 1995)
In the times when women were believed to be just homemakers, this lady went to prove all of them wrong and how. She had a degree in architecture from the University of Sydney and went on to become the first qualified women architect in South Asia. Further, in 1951, she joined the esteemed panel of Le Corbusier for the historical planning of the city of Chandigarh. She assisted him in making detailed drawings of various high profile buildings in the Capitol Complex. She worked in Chandigarh for 20 years and was a pioneer of the exposed brick modern architecture, with an expression of purity, honesty, and human scale. Also, she has designed furniture for many government buildings in the city. A master in French, she has authored a book reminiscing her days with Corbusier, titled “Those were the days” and translated Le Corbusier’s book, ”Three Human Establishments”.
2. Anil Laul
(6th August 1944- 5th July 2016)
“Green is not a fashion statement, it is merely the logical and commonsensical way to go.” The above quote is an apt representation of his design philosophies. His prime focus in architecture was on research, providing us with many techniques of low-cost construction, earthquake-resistant construction, and climate-responsive architecture. He has introduced us with master concepts like the cube on the vertex, funicular shells, Ram Lochan Tiles, and A-frames. He was a true indigenous architect who used locally made bricks, like the Nanakshahi Bricks also known as Iron bricks, and many other locally produced stones and bricks. To experience his wonder, his works like the Vedaville, Jaunapur Resettlement, Bhoomiheen Camp, Bharatyamgram, Anangpur Building Center, and his residence at Anangpur are like his flag bearers.
3. Sheila Sri Prakash
(Born on 6th July 1955)
An upfront orator and an active member of Woman Empowerment, she was the first woman in India, to start her practice by the name of Shilpa Architects in 1979. She believes in holistic sustainable development, preserving heritage, and understanding the urban and social impact. She was the first woman architect to be a part of the World Economic Forum on Design Innovation in 2011, where she designed the Reciprocal Design Index, to measure the sustainability of the building concerning all social, economical, and environmental factors. She has also coined the term “spaciology”, which translates into the correlation of spatial design and human psychology. Her firm has mastered many turnkey projects like the low-cost reciprocal house, customized bungalows, Silver Falls Resort in Kodaikanal, and many other influential projects, some of which are also in progress. She was one of the key founders of the Indian Green Building Council(IGBC).
Image 1 – Sheila Sri Prakash Source – ©SHARE Architects
Image 2 – Silver Falls Resort, Kodaikanal Source – ©Shilpa Architects
Image 3 – Conceptual Shirdi Sai Baba Temple, Chennai Source- ©Shilpa Architects
4. Anant Raje
(26th September 1929 – 27th June 2009)
An alumnus of Sir J.J. School of Architecture in Mumbai, he is also the student of internationally famous Louis Kahn. His tenure with Kahn has imprinted on him his peculiar architectural style of deeply recessed windows, modern geometric forms, and exposed concrete and brick facades. He finished Kahn’s most beloved project of the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad (IIM) as a site engineer. Along with that after his graduation, he also worked with B.V.Doshi, the master architect in Ahmedabad, and constructed his powerful architectural timeline in the country, including independent works like Galbabhai Farmers Training Institute, Bhopal Development Authority Headquarters, and many others. He was a pro with forming spaces that have a kinship with the voids, for instance, the ”courtyards”, which can be seen in various residences and buildings he had designed in and nearby the city of Ahmedabad.
5. Hafeez Contractor
(Born 19th June 1950)
He is a world-renowned architect, responsible for altering the skyline of the city of Mumbai, by giving it the tallest residential tower namely, Imperial Heights. He is an advocate of slum rehabilitation programs and believes that the bye-laws are like viruses in the growth of architecture. He has conceptualized and applied a 2’ by 6” wall outside the main wall of 4.5”, that prevents flooding of the building. His work expands in a wide range consisting of residences, hospitals, business centers, residential and office towers, mixed-use buildings, and various low-cost housing projects as well. His revolutionary ideas and strong conviction has put him on the world map. His projects include Lake Castle in Powai, Infosys SDB in Mysore, Lokhandwala Minerva in Mumbai, Hamilton Court in Gurgaon, Sarla Birla Academy in Bangalore, and many others.
6. Brinda Somaya
(Born 28th June 1949)
An architect and a conservationist, her firm by the name Somaya and Kalappa Consultants, holds a lot of projects ranging from academic and healthcare institutions, and various A-grade heritage structures which have been conserved and adaptively reused both. One such conservation project of St. Thomas Cathedral in Bombay has been bestowed with the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Award. She has also rehabilitated an entire village of Bhadli in Rajasthan, which had been hit by an earthquake, restoring hope and peace in villagers. She believes that an architect is like a guardian, safeguarding the interest of built and unbuilt environment both. Her major projects also include Nalanda International School in Vadodara, Goa Institute of Management in Goa, Birla Institute of Technology and Science in Pilani, and Restoration of Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad amongst many others.
7. Rahul Mehrotra
(Born in 1959)
A graduate of CEPT University in Ahmedabad, and now a professor at the Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, had once quoted, “Good architectural practice is one that acts responsibly for its broader environment and is sensitive to the fabric and grain of a city…”, which also substantiates his design ideologies. His oeuvre ranges from micro interior design projects like the House in the Tea Garden at Coonoor and macro-level urban conservation projects like the Hathigaon in Jaipur. He discards the idea of a “threshold” and believes that it creates boundaries for humans, and ideally, they should be soft and inviting, to create a barrier-free environment.
8. Achyut Kanvinde
(Born in 1916- 28th December 2002)
Rounding up with the quintessential architect and a beneficiary of the Padma Shri in the year 1974, Architect Kanvinde is known for his Brutalist Architecture. On one snap of luck, he went to the United States for his further studies where he came in the influential contact of some avant-garde architects like Walter Gropius, I.M.Pei, Paul Rudolph, and many others. He came back with the modern architecture infilled in his mind and went on to design many smooth geometric buildings with ribbon windows like the campus of the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur. Later he transformed into raw and brutal architecture for the milk dairies and factories like the Dudhsagar dairy in Mehsana. He used regional materials like brick and concrete to produce modernist architecture. Some other noticeable buildings of his are the ISKON Temple at New Delhi, Tata Pavilion at Trade Fair in New Delhi, and the National Science Center in New Delhi, amongst many others.