Brinda Somaya (born 28 June 1949) is an Indian architect and urban conservationist.
Early life and education
Brinda Somaya was born on 28 June 1949 to K.M Chinnappa and Ganavati Chinnappa. Somaya joined the Cathedral & John Connon School's science program. Out of 60 students, she was 1 of the 6 girls admitted. In 1966, Somaya won a prestigious American Field Service International Scholarship to the US( especially for North Carolina).After her time in the United States, she was highly inspired to take up architecture. In 1967,she returned back to India and completed her Bachelor of Architecture from Sir J.J. School of Architecture in Mumbai. She graduated as an Architect in 1971.She chose to continue her education and then went back to the states and joined Smith College in Northhampton, United States.There she graduated in 1973 with a Masters in Arts degree. She also took a short design course at Cornell University in 1972.
Somaya began her architectural practice in 1978 in Mumbai, India. Her firm's first office was opened in the back of her garden. From 1978 to 1981 she was joined by her sister Ranjini Kalappa, who is also an architect. After her sister left for Holland,she worked on her own. Somaya has travelled to the rural parts of India, from where she has got knowledge and inspiration for vernecular architecture. One such example is The Nalanda International Schools in Vadodara where she reflects the vernacular architecture by using the locally available resources and techniques, pergolas and courtyard. By doing so, she reflects the Indian ethos in her architecture. Her designs are both traditional as well as sustainable Her work includes corporate, industrial and institutional campuses and extends to public spaces, which she has rebuilt and sometimes reinvented as pavements, parks and plazas. Some of these campuses include Tata Consultancy Services, Banyan Park, Mumbai; Nalanda International School, Vadodara; and Zensar Technologies, Pune. Her firm won the competition for the 'Restoration and Upgradation of the historic Louis Kahn Buildings of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A) as well as the new Academic Buildings of the Indian Institute of Technology. She is currently the Chairperson of Board of Governors for School of Planning and Architecture, Vijayawada. She has built more than 200 projects in a span of 40 years. In 1999,so was a founder trustee for the HECAR Foundation,India. In the year 2000, she served as the Chairperson and the curator for the Women in Architecture 2000 Plus-Conference and exhibition on the works of the South Asian Women Architects. It was a global platform for women Architects from India,Bangladesh,Srilanka,Australia and Pakistan to showcase their works. Women in Design 2020+ International Conference will be held at the Nehru Centre in Mumbai on 8, 9 and 10 January 2020.
Awards and honours
In 2004, Somaya she won the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage award for the restoration of the St. Thomas' Cathedral in Mumbai.
She is also a Leading European Architects Forum award winner for the new Nalanda Schools Campus in Baroda in 2006.
Somaya was the first woman to have won the Wienerberger Golden Architect Award for lifetime achievement – a peer award, in 2007. In 2008, a mention was awarded to Brinda Somaya by the UIA (International Union of Architects) Sgoutas Prize for alleviation of poverty for her Bhuj Village Project. Her design was also featured in The Phaidon Atlas of 21st Century World Architecture:All the Greatest Building of the 21st century for Bhadi Village school.Additionally, in 2008, she also received the Vassilis Sgoutas Prize for the rehabilitation of Bhadi Village. She received the AYA JK Cement Award for Indian State Architecture for the Jubilee Church at Navi, Mumbai and the Indian Institute of Architects' Kitply Award for Conservation for the Cathedral and John Connon Middle School. Two of her projects were also nominated for the Aga Khan award. In 2013 she was chosen as one of the "100 GLOBAL PUBLIC INTEREST DESIGN" persons working at the intersection of design and service globally.
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 also honoured as the Distinguished Professor by the Indian Education Society’s College of Architecture (IES), Mumbai. In 2017, she got an honorable mention in the Arcasia Awards for the restoration and the preservation of Rajabai Clock Tower and University library Building ,Mumbai.On the same year,she won a national award ,Grohe NDTV Design and Architecture Award for outstanding Industry Contribution The Somaya and Kalappa Consultants won the competition for the Restoration and Upgradation of the historic Louis Kahn Buildings of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A) recently. She was appointed an Andrew Dickson White Professor-at-Large at Cornell University from 2017 to 2023.
Bhadli Village of Bhuj
Bhadli Village is located 40 km northwest of Bhuj. The village was destroyed by 6.9 Richter scale earthquake displacing 325 households(around 1500 people). Somaya, started by relocating the survivors in their own lands. She included all the villagers for the reconstruction in order to restore the unique identity of the village.She involved the Muslims family and assigned them for making intricate Bandhani (tie and dye-a fabric work), Patelbhai who were interested in the ecology of the village and employed skilled engineers to create a water reservoir in order to collect rain water· Her main focus for this project was to design in a way which promoted healthy and hygienic environment for all. She designed the houses in such a way which barred the dust and intense heat of the desert of Kutch. There were minimized openings and concrete jaalis were used for the exchange of air for minimum sunlight and dust. Also, a cluster of 5-6 houses were made to create a close knit community for the villagers. A separate space was created for the livestock and precious possessions. In order to restore fear in people, a 3 RCC plinth Beam was placed: one in the sill, one in the lintel and one in the roof base. The project maximized reusing the materials by reusing the debris, doors and windows.The venture was carried out with Sunil Dalala’s trust: The Pentagon Charitable foundation. The trust agreed to provide materials while the labor was provided by the villagers so that the villagers could overcome the trauma they had gone through as well as they would be employed.
A school in Bhadli was also rebuilt. It was a primary coed school with 194 students and 6 teachers. The students were aged 5–14 and functioned for seven months in a year. A temporary school was also built initially so that the students could continue their education. The school was completed in 2002.Somaya worked closely with villagers and used locally available materials to save money. The school consisted of classrooms, a library, dining facilities, kindergarden, a community hall open to women for producing bandhani, a tie-dye cloth. On the request from the villagers a flat roof was made so that the school could be expanded until grade 12.
St.Thomas Cathedral, the oldest Anglican Church in Mumbai was a 298-year structure when Somaya was contacted to restoration of the Cathedral. The Cathedral had a leak on the concreate slab of the flat roof. She did not have a lot of photographs for reference so had to rely on a black and white image of the original roof of the cathedral. A Grade-I Heritage Structure was successfully restored for which Somaya won the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Award.
Nalanda International School
Built on a 12 acres of land near Vadodara in Gujarat, Nalanda International School started its construction in 2003. The project was designed and built into 4 phases: First phase, infant, middle and senior phases. 4 acres of land was also separated for the sports and games facilities, The philosophy followed by this project was honesty and simplicity. Somaya also reflected the tradition of Jaipur in her project by using the local brick produced by the local masons. She designed the projects to ensure peace and tranquility to the students as well as for sustainability.
- Nalanda International School, Vadodara
- Goa Institute of Management, Goa
- Birla Institute of Technology and Sciences, Pilani
- Zensar Technology Limited, Pune
- TCS House, Mumbai
- St. Thomas Cathedral, Mumbai
- Rehabilitation of Bhadli Village along with its School and community Center, Bhuj
- Restoration of the Indian Institute of Management –Ahmedabad (IIM-A) Louis Kahn Campus
Somaya has been married to Anand Somaya, a cardiac surgeon for over 42 years.