“To ask how I feel about writing is to ask how I feel about architecture”, fervently exclaims Madhavi Desai, renowned architect and a passionate writer, at the advent of publishing (By Routledge, UK) the very first such book in South Asia titled, Women Architects and Modernism in India: Narratives and Contemporary Practices. The book compiles the life and works of established women architects of the twenty-first century while also profiling some of the historical practioners of the country.
Besides following her passion for writing, Madhavi was also professionally engaged in design and supervision of architectural projects with Miki Desai in their joint studio Archicrafts, for about 25 years since 1981.Madhavi has been the recipient of several awards over the years. Among others, in ’89-’91 she was awarded Senior Research Fellowship by the Indian Council of Social Science Research and in 1994 she received a Visiting Scholar’ position at the renowned Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture, MIT and Harvard, USA. Besides these she has received grants for various national and international assignments. She has been an adjunct faculty at the Faculty of Architecture, CEPT University, Ahmedabad since 1986.
Madhavi Desai is the author of Traditional Architecture: House Form of the Islamic Community of the Bohras in Gujarat, and the editor of Women and the Built Environment in India. She is also the co-author of Architecture and Independence, Architectural Heritage of Gujarat and The Bungalow in Twentieth Century India. She has lectured at many universities across India, Europe and the USA.
Professor, writer and speaker at notable conferences, Madhavi’s versatile personality has brought her much acclaim in the industry. Her interest in literature and design, coupled with her experience in architecture and collaboration with other professionals, has led to the notion behind the need to feature innovative breakthroughs and bring to notice the creative geniuses in professional women of India.
With increasing focus on women’s achievements and issues in the twenty first century, the time is right for a book on women in architecture. Madhavi has aptly represented an important contribution to the existing literature on 20th and 21st century architecture in India, especially in view of the predominant west-centric literature available so far. Her book highlights not only the role of women but also expands the understanding of the range of architectural projects undertaken in the subcontinent, especially since the mid-1990s.
This book redefines the nature of work, in view of feminist re-thinking by extending the boundaries of the definition of architectural engagement, in an unconventional and an inclusive manner. Beginning with the profile of the first woman architect of India, Madhavi covers some excellent design practices by single women or women partners of contemporary times.
Madhavi feels that, students and practitioners of architecture as well as academics will be interested in the book at national as well as at international levels, hopefully creating role models and mentors for the increasing number of women students.
Capturing all these marvels in a book is an accomplishment of Madhavi, who herself represents the independent woman architect of India. Being a committed feminist, she says, “Let us join hands to embrace the twenty first century as our own”.