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SAP Seminar Series, Works & Continuities – The City of Mumbai, by Brinda Somaya

Monday, October 22, 2018 at 4:30pm to 7:00pm

Uris Hall, G08

The challenges that an Architect faces, working and living in today’s India, are probably unparalleled. The largest Urban Movement taking place in the world will be in India where hundreds of millions of people will be moving into the cities from rural areas by 2050. Having lived most of my life in Mumbai, I have seen it grow from a beautiful City of 3 million people, to an unruly metropolis of around 22 million people. So what will be the role of an Architect in this changing scenario?

This presentation will span my Studio’s work in conservation, restoration and retrofitting of Heritage buildings in the historic fort area of Mumbai to Re-architecture and new construction on a rapidly changing street in the mill district of Central Mumbai showing how aspirations and people’s needs are changing the city at a rapid space. I believe that the need is for professional concern with the environment and improved quality of life for all people. Hence the need is to train a new kind of professional who can intervene and be effective within this diversity. The city and its citizens have one more opportunity to celebrate as Mumbai’s rich cluster of Victorian and Art Deco buildings in the Fort precinct and Marine Drive have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2018.

Brinda Somaya is an architect and urban conservationist. Upon completion of her Bachelor of Architecture from Mumbai University and her Master of Arts from Smith College in Northampton, MA, U.S.A, she started her firm Somaya and Kalappa Consultants in 1978 in Mumbai, India. In May 2012 she was the recipient of an Honorary Doctorate from her alma mater, Smith College. In 2014 she was awarded the Indian Institute of Architects – Baburao Mhatre Gold Medal for Lifetime Achievement. In 2015 she was honoured as Distinguished Professor by the Indian Education Society’s College of Architecture (IES), Mumbai. She is the Chairperson of the Board of Governors, School of Planning and Architecture, Vijayawada – 2016, an Institute of National Importance. In 2017 she became a Member of the Council of Architecture Committee to Review the Profession and Education of Architecture in India and she also joined the Board of the Lafargeholcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction, Zurich, Switzerland. She has recently been appointed by Cornell University, U.S.A. as the A.D. White Professor-at-large.

Over four decades she has merged architecture, conservation and social equity in projects ranging from institutional campuses and rehabilitation of an earthquake-torn village to the restoration of an 18th century Cathedral, showing that progress and history need not be at odds. Her philosophy: ‘the Architect’s role is that of guardian – hers is the conscience of the built and un-built environment.’ This belief underlines her work that spans large corporate, industrial and institutional campuses and extends to public spaces, which she has rebuilt and sometimes reinvented as pavements, parks and plazas.



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Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Asian Studies, South Asia Program




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Valerie Foster Githinji

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Brinda Somaya

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