Women Power in Bombay Architecture

The Annual Charles Correa Gold Medal for Excellence in Architecture Academics was announced this year. It should come as no surprise that all the receipiants are women. One of the cited, is from my alma mater Rizvi College of Architecture. Great going, all. Congratulations.

Nearly 60 per cent of all students of architecture are girls, so it is no surprise to see that the top four names the jury members have picked for the Charles Correa Gold Medal – the city’s only inter-collegiate architecture competition – belong to girls. The jury panel, consisting of Charles Correa, Kamu Iyer, Narendra Demgle and Ravi Hazra, awarded the Charles Correa Gold Medal (2005-2006) to Namrata Kapoor of Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute of Architecture for her housing development project ‘The Giant’s Garden’. They also cited the works of Rachna Chaugule from BKPS College of Architecture, Pune, Samira Sukhatme of Rizvi College of Architecture, Mumbai and Nandita Raghu of DY Patil College of Architecture, Navi Mumbai.

“These theses were the students’ projects completely,” said Professor Akhtar Chauhan, Director of Rizvi College of Architecture, located in Bandra. “There were no specific guidelines given to them or themes – they chose everything on their own.”

When asked whether the winning entry would be implemented, Professor Chauhan asked, “Would the government look to it? This is merely a competition to promote excellence in the field of architecture; a display of academic theses. Nothing more, nothing less.”

The 16 entries were displayed at the college from Arpil 28th till May 5th. Judging took place on the first day itself and the results came out on May 9th, Wednesday. It was a tough decision as all the entries were innovative, original and very intricately mapped out. While Yogesh Agashe from LBH College designed a Metro Railway Complex at Bandra-Kurla Complex, Kedar Nigude from BKPS College designed a Civic Centre at Pune. Vinita Podar from JJ College of Architecture stood out for her Community Development Centre for Transgenders and Amrut Koli from IES designed an Environmental Training and Research Institute in Mumbai. Mahila Sultan Chaudhury from TVB School of Habitat Studies of New Delhi designed a Place for Pilgrim: Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti; Samira Sukhatme won a citation for her big dream of Changing the Face of Juvenile Reformatory in Mumbai. Nandita Raghu designed an Insitute of Urban Studies in Navi Mumbai and Neha Sabnis attempted to reconfigure Azad Maidan as a Public Space.

The college has, however, approached the government for the implementation of Minal Panchal’s thesis. Minal Panchal who died in the recent horrific Virginia Tech massacre, holds a sentimental value in many hearts. Her proposed project of a children’s theme park at Borivili might be implemented soon by the government, but the professor did not seem too hopeful about that either.

Noted architect and lecturer, Kamu Iyer, said that Namrata Kapoor’s winning entry of a housing development plan in Mumbai was a “social endeavour with a strong conceptual plan, exploring different dimensions of our urban housing problems”.

“There is not much I can say by way of what criteria we were looking for,” said Iyer. “Let us put

it in this way that the students had all the freedom in the world to research their theme and design them in great detail. It was left totally up to them.”

There is a crying need for fresh perspectives on our urban problems. And with the proper guidelines, a simple inter-collegiate competition can indeed be converted into a ground-breaking source of government projects. Are the authorities paying heed? [link]

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