Wednesday, January 31st, 2001
A Path Between Nations
women? And why only South Asian women? Is this a feminist
agenda we are talking about? These questions eventually
get answered as one marvels over An Emancipated Place - 2000
Plus, Women in Architecture, a comprehensive paperwork put
together by architects Brinda Somaya and Urvashi Mehta. "
It's interesting how men are defined by their work and women
by relationships," said Shyam Benegal, before releasing
the book at the National Gallery of Modern Art. "I am
happy that I scanned cover to cover, finding the myth shattered."
He added. Presenting a cross-section of landscaping and building
work from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka - together
with some representation from Singapore and Australia - the
book demonstrates how women architects are steering a path
midway the "inevitable" global culture and their
own nations' rich designs traditions.
"Few countries in the world offer architects challenges
as those in the South Asian region," Brinda Somaya answered
one of the questions that posed like a concrete block in front
of the 100-odd architects, students and media people in attendance
for the book release. "And in the last few decades, women
architects have been responsible for an enormous and diverse
body of work, which deserves wider recognition," she
said, answering the other. "After working in the Seventies
and the Eighties, when there was no earth-shattering change
I found no change in the gender composition in my profession,
it seemed the Nineties was the decade when women came into
their own in the field of architecture in our country. And
if it made an impact here, it definitely made one in our neighbouring
nations," elaborates Somaya in the book's foreword.
after two decades of virtually no interaction with any of
the woman architect in India, and even lesser contact maintained
with others in the South Asian region, Somaya -wanting to
register the changes in the fraternity -organised a meet.
"Though I had already met Minnette de Silva, both in
India and Sri Lanka, there were women like Yasmeen Lari from
Pakistan whom I wanted to meet. And it was high time an exhibition
of the works of anonymous talents was showcased." she
says of the meet she organised last year, which has today
taken shape of this reference for the budding and established
Somaya and architect friend Urvashi Mehta were clear that
it would not be a conference on gender issues. The conference
was a success-with wide interaction and quality audience comprising
environmentalists and even historians.
And not wanting to end at that, the duo decided to document
the proceedings in a book about practicing women today. Which
unfortunately, elimates the like of the late Urmila Elie Chowdhary
and Pravina Mehta.
an exception has been made, perhaps for the sake of historical
chronicles, by including the late Perin Mistry and late Millette
de Silva. So, there's Namita Singh, Meena Mani, Sandhya Sawant
ad Abha Narain Labah from India, there's Fawsia Qureshi and
Ayesha Noorani from Pakistan and Afroza Ahmed from Bangladesh
presenting their holistic approach to building-which doesn't
discriminate, either between classes or sexes.
Brende Vale said: "The women who accept their traditional
role and identify their feminism with it are capable of producing
architecture of environment responsibility than those who
take up the male role for one-off act if innovation, creation."
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