• Revisiting India’s Architectural History: Tracing the Women Practitioners of Twentieth Century India
    Ishita Shah

Umaija Deshmukh, Recording the oral history of Chitra Vishwanath at her residence, Bangalore, India, 2020. Digital photograph. Courtesy BIOME Environmental Solutions Pvt. Ltd.

The popular narrative of India’s twentieth century architectural history is largely articulated around the contributions of male architects and engineers. There is very little documentation and dissemination about the contributions made by first-generation women architects or other female practitioners of the country. Existing narratives about Indian architectural history are also influenced by geographical and sociopolitical boundaries. This project traces the journeys of women practitioners from twentieth century India and maps their architectural contributions as significant landmarks in the larger narrative of India’s architectural history. Using oral history recordings, visual documentation, and storytelling tools, this project creates an open access archive, and  contributes to the discourse about the relationships between gender and the built environment in India. Newly created records, existing archival materials, and publications will also be interpreted and cross-referenced for designing various micro-outputs for public engagement.

Trained as a designer and historian, Ishita Shah’s practice revolves around the idea of curating for culture. Recently, she has been curating online programs on archiving family histories and she also moderated an exposure series discussing creative possibilities for archiving in India. She is collaborating with BIOME Environmental Solutions to create an archive and a publication about their ways of practice. Shah has also collaborated with the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore; the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage, New Dehli; and The Kishkinda Trust, Karnataka, India; and has been cocurating a public engagement platform, Design-ed Dialogues, where the urban community comes together to decode complex cultural issues. She has been an educator and coordinator to the UNESCO Chair in Culture, Habitat, and Sustainable Development at Srishti Institute of Art, Design, and Technology, Bangalore. As the founding archivist and oral historian at CEPT Archives for architecture, planning, and design, Shah has also worked with the Royal Institute of British Architects, INSITE Magazine and the Design Innovation & Craft Resource Center (DICRC). Shah is currently focusing her practice to study the impact of feminist pedagogy on cultural preservation.