Brinda Somaya: Building in India | A Shared Desire for Dignity
A.D. White Professor-at-Large Public Lecture
Brinda Somaya is an architect and urban conservationist. Upon completion of her Bachelor of Architecture from Mumbai University and Master of Arts from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusettes, she started her firm Somaya and Kalappa Consultants (SNK) in 1978 in Mumbai, India. In May 2012, she was conferred an Honorary Doctorate from her alma mater, Smith College. In 2014 she was awarded the Indian Institute of Architects — Baburao Mhatre Gold Medal for Lifetime Achievement. From 2016–2021 she was the Chairperson of the Board of Governors, School of Planning and Architecture, Vijayawada, an Institute of National Importance. In 2017 she joined the Board of the Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction, Zurich, Switzerland, and was also elected as the A.D. White Professor-at-Large by Cornell University in 2017. Her appointment runs through 2023. In 2022 she was chosen as one of the "75 Indian women in STEAM" on India's 75th Anniversary of Independence.
Over four decades she has merged architecture, conservation, and social equity in projects ranging from institutional campuses to the rehabilitation of an earthquake-torn village and the restoration of an 18th-century cathedral, showing that progress and history need not be at odds. Her belief that "the Architect's role is that of guardian – hers is the conscience of the built and un-built environment," underlines her work that encompasses large corporate, industrial, and institutional campuses and extends to public spaces, some of which she has rebuilt and others reinvented as pavements, parks, and plazas.
Some of SNK's award-winning campuses include Tata Consultancy Services, Banyan Park, Mumbai; Nalanda International School, Vadodara; and Zensar Technologies, Pune. In 2021, SNK Consultants won UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Award of Merit for Malabari Hall, Seva Sadan; in 2019, the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Award of Distinction for the Restoration and Upgradation of the historic Louis Kahn Buildings of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A); in 2018, the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Award for Cultural Heritage Conservation — Honourable Mention for Rajabai Clock Tower and University of Mumbai Library; and in 2004 the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Award for the restoration of St. Thomas' Cathedral in Mumbai. In 2013, Brinda Somaya was chosen as one of the 100 Global Public Interest Design persons working at the intersection of design and service globally.
She is the Founder Trustee of the HECAR Foundation, which has brought out several publications on heritage and architecture. In 2000 she curated a conference, "Women in Architecture 2000," and organized a seminal exhibition on the work of women architects, with a special focus on South Asia. In 2020, she chaired an international conference "Women in Design 2020+" a landmark event for women designers from across the globe to showcase SNK's work as well as provide a platform to collaborate. In 2018, she brought out a monograph Brinda Somaya – Works & Continuities covering her diverse practice with MAPIN Publishing and the HECAR Foundation.
Brinda Somaya was on the International Archives of Women in Architecture's Board of Advisors (IAWA). She has delivered analytical and critical talks, as well as presented papers in India and abroad, on her work. She has lectured extensively in the U.S., U.K., Australia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and India, and her work has been exhibited in the U.S., U.K., and Japan.
View the related exhibition: Brinda Somaya: Works & Continuities.