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A look into the work of prolific Ar. Brinda Somaya

A deep dive into the life and times of one of India’s most prolific and inspiring architects, Brinda Somaya. One of the first woman-led architectural firms in India, Brinda founded SNK in 1978 - at a time when few women dared to tackle and conquer an intrinsically male-dominated profession! A closer look at three of her projects shows the architect’s range and expertise over varied typologies.

Over 45 years ago, a young woman from Mumbai (then Bombay) made a bold choice. Brinda Somaya decided to establish her own architectural practice, Somaya and Kalappa (SNK), in 1978, in a field that was then male dominated. This decision opened the doors for Somaya to explore her creativity and became an inspiration for hundreds of girls to venture into architecture—a field no longer dominated solely by men.

A classic example of how one's childhood shapes them, Brida’s visit to the brick ruins of Nalanda, an ancient university in Bihar at the age of six, and multiple travels across the country sowed the seeds of art, architecture, and history - which are still embedded in her core personality. Her early exposure to India’s heritage also pivoted her career towards the restoration of heritage buildings and collaborations with indigenous artisans and craftsmen. A graduate of the prestigious Sir JJ College of Architecture, she went on to pursue a Master of Arts from Smith College before setting up her independent practice.

Brinda Somaya’s architectural journey has been fascinating! Back in the late '80s, she built a hotel in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, at a time when there were no computers or even direct flights to the city. By creating drawings in the Cyrillic script and communicating with the team via telex machines, she successfully managed to accomplish it. SNK has subsequently created inspiring architecture, including The Goa Institute of Management, Nalanda International Senior School, and TCS Campus Indore, among others.

However, her childhood nostalgia, shifting from 'Calcutta' to 'Bombay,' catching fish in the raised promenade, and passing through the Queen Victoria statues in the BEST bus, made her fall in love with the city.

This love propelled her to conserve heritage buildings when the reclamation began in the city during the '70s. The firm has restored many buildings, namely The Bombay House, Bharat Bhawan II, and many more.

Text : Aishwarya Khurana

Images : Procured from the architect

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