“The irony is, as architects, we have been taught to build, but it is the unbuilt in the city that really defines us”
– Archana Gupta
Archana Gupta died of bullet injury in celebratory firing at a New Year party in Delhi on Jan 3, 2019.The news has shaken the architectural fraternity and her students who were extremely fond of their teacher.
An architect, an author, a conservationist, a teacher; Archana Gupta was a multi-talented figure with a deep interest in historic building conservation and urban design. With a Master’s degree in sustainable design, Archana Gupta believed that the value of architecture lies in its holistic nature. She tried to represent those aspects of architecture through her buildings and teachings which looked for the ‘big feelings’ in the little things.
Born in Delhi, an alumnus of Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, Archana was the co-founder of the Foundation of the Indian Cities, along with Anshuman Gupta. She was the Vice President (Projects) for KPDK Buildtech Pvt. Ltd. She had extensive experience in service architecture and infrastructure development and had to her credit several publications and research projects relating to studies of traditional and vernacular Indian settlements.
Archana took a break from teaching at IP University in 2017 to work on the book and the family realty business and became a guest lecturer at various colleges. She was the principal architect at her own design studio in Delhi.
The Foundation Of The Indian Cities was a platform founded by her and Ar. Anshuman Gupta, a fellow Architect, to understand urbanism in context of the ever evolving Indian City – from its multiple layered perspective of history, economics, growth patterns, aspirations, design and trajectory and its overall relevance in today’s date, an attempt to decode the various facets of multiple urban spaces, at both a microscopic as well as a microcosmic level – and attempt to study, research, document and archive the various usage and design related aspects of city spaces, as well as try to map out the identity in the scheme of things in India and the world and an effort to make the research accessible for students, researchers, practitioners and planners and the general interested citizens. Archana and Anshuman had also co- authored a book called ‘Celebrating the Public Places of India’ which was called ‘path-breaking’ by Ar. A. G. K. Menon, an expert urban planner. She had also conducted heritage walks for the Conservation Society of India.
“How do you look at the spaces around you? How do you look at the city around you? How do you look at your habitat?” Archana said this was what she learnt at TVB School of Habitat Studies, and felt that it had always stayed with her. And the book ‘Celebrating Public Spaces of India’ was a product of these questions. It started for them as a six month project but turned out to be a four year long research project. She addressed very genuine concerns about the disparity between Indian and Western public spaces, and believed that direct comparison was not the right approach to understanding them. And instead of looking at a macro level, one should try peeling the layers that define the Indian public spaces.
Front Cover of Celebrating Public Spaces of India
Back Cover of Celebrating Public Spaces of India
Foreword by Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik
Celebrating Public Spaces of India is an attempt at understanding architecture as a defining feature in the identity of the ‘public space’ and its influence on evolving modes of urbanism in India. Through a carefully curated list of more than fifty vibrant landmarks across the length and breadth of India, this volume analyses and highlights the socio-cultural-functional strength of public spaces within the urban fabric of cities. Featuring evocative photographs and drawings, this volume strives to understand the mechanics of these built and open structures, and their influences on urban cityscapes. With insightful original research, the book is an invaluable resource for anyone wishing to understand the nature of the Indian urban public space.
Here’s the short film made about the book
Hear from Archana and Anshuman, what they have to say about the book:
Hearing the news of her demise, Conservation Architect A.G.K. Menon said, “I feel like I have lost a child, she was a part of the second batch at our school, TVB. We were currently working on conservation of the Rashtrapati Bhawan. Her father, a plumbing expert, has been roped in for the project and Archana was assisting him,”
Historian Narayani Gupta says “Archana spent her childhood in the Caribbean, and was therefore quicker to pick up details that those of us who lived here longer have taken for granted. She made forays into the historic urban village of Chirag Dilli, had long discussions with the inhabitants and made it the theme of her dissertation.”
Conservation Architect Ratish Nanda after having known Archana for 30 years puts it, “She was incredibly effective at everything she did – and she did lots. She also taught almost continuously since graduating in 1996.”
Anshuman recalled his last conversation with Gupta on December 31: “We talked daily. That day, we spoke about our plans for the next six months. We were just giving finishing touches to our next two books, and working on a documentary on plastic,” said Anshuman, who was to travel to Ahmedabad with Gupta this month for a project at National Institute of Design.
Landscape photographer Amit Mehra, whose photos are part of Gupta’s book, recalled his first meeting with her in 2018: “She was truly selfless about her work, and did the book without any funding.”
Ramneet Kaur is an architect who loves to write about architecture and believes that words do have the power to bring about change.