“I am an Indian and what I am, comes from my heritage,” says the Architect and Conservationist Brinda Somaya in a monograph. Based in Mumbai, she is the founder and principal architect of the Somaya and Kalappa Consultants, a multidisciplinary architecture and design practice running since 1978. She conserves heritage buildings all over India with a belief that the modernity and development should not stampede and stain the rich culture of India. On Monday, her work as restoration architect at Vikram Sarabhai Library, Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Ahmadabad, was recognised with “Award of Distinction” at the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation.

Key Takeaways:

  • Brinda Somaya is a Mumbai based Architect and Conservationist.
  • She is the owner of Somaya and Kalappa Consultants, an architectural firm running since 1978.
  • Brinda Somaya’s restoration work at Vikram Sarabhai Library, IIM Ahmadabad, was conferred with “Award of Distinction” at UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation 2019. 

Brinda Somaya and Architecture

Born on 28 June 1949, Brinda Somaya refers to herself as belonging to a “Bridging Generation” that connects the Great Masters of post-Independent India with the present era of globalisation. Architecture for her plays the role of the guardian of India’s history and rich heritage. “He or she is the conscience of the built and the un-built environment. I am an Indian and all what I am comes from my heritage. It is an intrinsic part of my being and will naturally reflect in my work in many ways.” said Somaya in a monograph released recently by Mapin Publishing and the Hecar Foundation.

“Unless architects are able to meaningfully engage in civic projects, the discipline will be peripheral to society. I believe that if we nurture the seeds, they will grow.”

Her penchant for heritage and culture and her aim of becoming conservation architect bloomed in her childhood. She travelled a lot with her parents to different heritage sites, temples and villages in India. The extensive travelling gave her exposure to diverse culture and magnificent heritage spread across India. She was amazed by the facets of architecture and craft that reflected the diversity of India. It was then that she decided to conserve what defined Indian cultural heritage and embarked upon the journey to become an architect.

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Her journey of conserving the heritage of India

Brinda completed her Bachelor of Architecture degree at Sir J.J College of Architecture, Mumbai University. She moved to the U.S and completed her Masters from Smith College, Northampton. Brinda began her architectural practice in 1978 in Mumbai. Her area of work includes corporate, industrial and institutional campuses, public spaces like pavements, parks and plazas. As a conservationist, she rebuilds and revives the glory of the heritage sites and restores it as a part of the modernity.  In the monograph, Brinda reminisces a childhood experience of travelling and says, “Modernity is not necessarily an architectural definition…it is understanding everything that has gone before to the best of your capability and seeing how it is right for the time and for the future.”

It was in the year 1978 that she founded the SNK and has been heading it for about four decades. She runs the firm with her lawyer turned architect daughter Nandini Sampat. Besides marking its excellence in India, the firm has also collaborated with international projects and developed new ideas and concepts. Some of the best works of SNK under Brinda Somaya are Rajbai Clock Tower and Library building in Mumbai, Nalanda International School Vadodra, St. Thomas Cathedral, Mumbai, Goa Institute of Management, Birla Institute of Technology and Science in Pilani and TCS House Mumbai.

Brinda Somaya’s Achievements

Brinda Somaya is the member of the Editorial board for MARG Architectural Book and Member of Committee of Environmental Impact Assessment of New Construction Projects and New Industrial Estates for `Ministry of Environment & Forests’ Government of India. Furthermore, she is the Member of Urban Heritage Conservation Committee and Mumbai’s initiative for the protection and improvement of streets and public spaces.

“He or she is the conscience of the built and the un-built environment. I am an Indian and all what I am comes from my heritage. It is an intrinsic part of my being and will naturally reflect in my work in many ways.”

Brinda has been conferred with UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Award for restoring St. Cathedral in Mumbai in 2004. She has been awarded the Leading European Architect Forum for the Nalanda School Campus in Vadodra in 2006. She became the first woman to receive the Wienerberger Golden Architect Award for lifetime achievement in 2007.

Brinda Somaya, having completed around four decades in architecture, has marked her indelible presence in a predominantly male-dominated field of work. She followed her dreams and which kept her moving forward. In her architectural practice, she has developed an incredible interest in architecture and its relation with society. In an interview with The Hindu she says, “Unless architects are able to meaningfully engage in civic projects, the discipline will be peripheral to society. I believe that if we nurture the seeds, they will grow.”

Rudrani Kumari is an intern with SheThePeople.TV

Also Read: Abha Narain Lambah: Restoring India’s History One Monument At A Time

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