Abha Narain Lambah, a conservation architect based in Mumbai, believes is restoring the history of India by caring for its monuments. Abha is renowned for her significant work in restoring and conserving the heritage buildings in our country with a touch of artistry. More than two decades ago, Abha started her unconventional journey as a conservation architect. Today, she is the owner of the architectural firm Abha Naraine Lambah Associates. She has been awarded “Award of Merit” at this year’s UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation for restoring Keneseth Eliyahoo synagogue, a heritage landmark in Mumbai.

Key Takeaways:

  • Abha Naraine Lambah is a Conservation Architect based in Mumbai. 
  • She has been awarded the “Award of Merit” at this year’s UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation for restoring Keneseth Eliyahoo synagogue, a heritage landmark in Mumbai.
  • Other significant projects that Abha has worked in are the Ajanta Caves in Aurangabad, 15th century Maitreya Temple Basgo in Ladakh and the Golconda Fort.
  • Besides being a conservation architect, she has also written books that map the heritage of India.

Abha’s Journey as a Conservation Architect:

After completing her Masters in architecture from School of Architecture and Planning in New Delhi, Abha started off as a conservationist architect in Mumbai. She set up her own firm in 1998 which is today one of India’s leading firms, specializing in architectural conservation. The firm has won nine UNESCO Asia Pacific Awards for its conservation projects all over India.

Among many wonderful conservation projects undertaken by Abha, some are the Ajanta Caves in Aurangabad, 15th century Maitreya Temple Basgo in Ladakh, the Golconda Fort, Charminar and Qutub Shahi Fort in Hyderabad, Bikaner House in New Delhi.

Abha Narain Lambah has completed more than two decades as a conservationist architect. In an interview with Forbes India, she said, “You join architecture, as medicine, because you’re idealistic about making a difference.  In conservation, you cannot come up with a formula and apply it to every site. The sites are as varied as a Buddhist temple in Ladakh or an assembly building designed by Le Corbusier in Chandigarh, or a posh palace in Patiala. You diagnose a building the same way a doctor diagnoses a human being. You first listen, read, see and understand it, and then look at how you are going to suggest interventions.”

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A glimpse of her projects and achievements:

Among many wonderful conservation projects undertaken by Abha, some are the Ajanta Caves in Aurangabad, 15th century Maitreya Temple Basgo in Ladakh, the Golconda Fort, Charminar and Qutub Shahi Fort in Hyderabad, Bikaner House in New Delhi. She has also restored some very prominent buildings in Mumbai too, such as the Bombay High Court, Asiatic Society Library and Town Hall, the BMC Headquarters, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya museum and Royal Opera House.

She has been recognized for her work with Sanskriti Award, Eisenhower Fellowship, the Attingham Trust Fellowship and Charles Wallace Fellowship. Besides, she has also been a consultant to ICCROM, UNITAR, World Monuments Fund, Global Heritage Firm, Archaeological  Survey of India and has served in the heritage committees of Delhi and Mumbai.

Abha is also an author of wonderful books on the monuments and heritage of India. Some of her most noted works are The Land of Five Rivers: Marking the Architectural Landscape of Punjab, Shekhawati: The Havelis of Merchant Princes and Monumental India: Curated by Abha Narain Lambah.

Pushing the envelop

American Professor and author Mary Woods recalls an incident to Mumbai Mirror, “Once when Abha was working on one of her restoration projects, she was encountering not outright resistance but passive opposition. Things really changed when she climbed the bamboo scaffolding in her sari. It was almost as if they were daring her to do that, a way of physically testing her resolve.”

Lambah has been recognized for her work with Sanskriti Award, Eisenhower Fellowship, the Attingham Trust Fellowship and Charles Wallace Fellowship.

Working in the architectural field for more than 20 years, Abha has left an indelible mark of her indomitable presence in a largely male-dominated field. Gender, she said in her interview with Forbes, was never a barrier for her. She was not a conformist to the conventions of society and defined and worked according to her own rules. Mother to a daughter, she further says that motherhood was not a pause or an end to her career.  “You have to push the envelope and find things that work for you. If I said I have a child and I can’t take her to site and, therefore, I’ll stop working, that would be a choice I was making. But I chose to take her to site, and as a result, I never really took a break,” said Abha.

Rudrani Kumari is an intern with SheThePeople.TV.

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