Memoirs of a So-Called ‘Woman’ Architect

Infusing their own homes with a gentle warmth while also gently caressing their designs, women are watering the pasture of architecture. Buildofy’s ability to right-swipe on projects invites fate to find a match of project and architect, that is made in heaven.

Memoirs of a So-Called ‘Woman’ Architect

Instagram’s new feature; mindless scrolling has become a paramour that keeps one burning for more at night, coupled with side-tracking one during a skivvying day with instances of relatability and Dreams Unreal. I stumbled upon this feature once, on a Sunday afternoon, while the to-do list too, simulated to be taking it slow. During these sublime sixty minutes, I came across a reel of a stand-up comedian who was Crowd Working, he asked a woman in the audience ‘What do you do?’ to which she replied “I am an architect!” Brace yourselves now! He based his punchline on “Aurate ghar bhi banate hai?” (Do women also ‘make’ houses?). My initial impulse was to deliver a kicking-in-the-teeth comment but deciding to abstain from it, I contemplated and investigated, in the throes of my ‘Amy’ from Gone Girl moment.


In shrewd contemplation, the Council of Architecture website lent assistance, by revealing the registered women architects; who are more or less 47.13%, a rather ‘Eureka moment’ to India’s patriarchal social order. But it wasn't always a male-dominated society; earlier women sat on the throne, looking after the territory’s affairs of commissioning majestic palaces, intricately carved temples, and other astute edifices. These assemblies stand shoulder-to-shoulder, watching tables turn on their very own nourishers. But the documentation to justify this argument appears as entangled as Eileen Gray’s and Le Corbusier's relationship.

Pie Diagram of Percentage of Registered Architects in India according to gender

“Definitely, there is some hard wiring in our DNA that makes us look at spaces very differently. There is an inherent engineering quality that just comes along with the spaces that men design. For women it's more about providing shelter, and comfort… so it becomes more emotive,” chuckles architect Shruti Vedavyas of Dhi Architecture and Design justifying the divergence in design approaches between her and her male counterparts. Interior designer Sonal Chordia of HOHM Design Studio further agrees, “I think practicality-wise…of storage, kitchen… we use a lot of our practical things …and I think our colour schemes and all will be much more eclectic than our male counterparts.”

Interior designer Sonal Chordia of HOHM Design Studio narrates chronicles of La Serenite, a home she restored To watch the complete home documentary, click here.

Far from this undocumented miserable montage, in the groove of jazzy nights of the Art Deco crusade, a colossal transformation in the form of Perin Jamsetjee Mistri shook Bombay’s foundation. Graduating as the first female student from the J.J. School of Architecture, followed by a career spanning five decades, she took Bombay towards modernism. But today the scenario features a different façade, “Even today when I go to the (architecture) schools I see more girls, when it comes to practice you see more men,” remarks architect Prathima Seethur of Wright Inspires.

Architect Prathima Seethur of Wright Inspires communicates about her design of the Shiva Stuthi residence. Visit Buildofy for the video of the complete project walkthrough.

Tailing the blazing trail of Perin, phoenixes like Eulie Chowdhury from Uttar Pradesh, Sheila Sri Prakash, and Vina Mody rose from the ashes. It is said that women have always stood by each other not just physically, in the same spirit Vina Mody placed her bets on Hema Sankalia in the 1950s. Sankalia further joined forces with Pravina Mehta, the duo with the aid of architect Charles Correa and civil engineer Shirish Patel, abstracted a plan for ‘Navi Mumbai.’

Women have always looked out for each other, in the wake of celebrating support architect Shruthi shares, “One of my seniors was working there (at Jaisim – Fountainhead)… she said… if you really want to work here, I will call you and when I call you just drop everything and come. A week or so later she suddenly called me and said "Shruthi come now…she later told me… she wanted me to get a chance with him directly.”

Architect Shruti Vedavyas of Dhi Architecture And Design talking about her design of the Hombale Residence. Watch the complete video on Buildofy.


While women in the past chanted together before the fire to bind the spell for modernism, architect Zaha Hadid, the only name that pops up for women in architecture, came with guns blazing. Also known as the ‘queen of the curves,’ her name is paradoxically associated with ‘not making houses’, but breaking them, persuading them, tugging them, and painting exquisite pieces of artwork that people can stay in. Inspiring a generation full of women to break the toxic cycle. But in some cases, the cycle endures, architect Shruthi shares, “If you notice the trend there are always more women in college, somehow…about five to ten years of practice the number of women who (actually) stay active in practice…decreases rapidly”

Architect Shruti Vedavyas of Dhi Architecture And Design sketching out the context of Hombale Residence. Visit Buildofy for the video of the complete project walkthrough.

However, within this enchanted wonderland of architecture, there has been a symphony of women who handled drafting tables while handling the kitchen counter. “We play so many more pivotal roles in people’s lives than our own, be it a mother, or a wife or a daughter-in-law … everything put together literally you are playing so many roles and you don’t want to compromise on anything (related to family),” explains Sonal. But the balance is not always equal, sometimes a step back is to leap forward. “Seven to eight years back I dived into it (her own practice), before that, I had my daughter growing up and stuff, so, I was busy with that… then started taking proper projects,” Sonal further adds. Correspondingly, architect Prathima reminisces about the unplanned advent of her baby (practice) saying, “Starting off with my practice was very accidental… it was more like I had to take a maternity leave… then I realized I don't have a job anymore… so I had to start practicing on my own.”

Architect Prathima Seethur of Wright Inspires sketches out the design of the Kausthubha residence. Watch the complete video on Buildofy.


These multifaceted protagonists are concocted with a tablespoon of passion and manifold cups of inspiration and are portrayed by 37.0% of working women in the country, as per the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS). “I was always inspired by good-looking design…and I think creativity keeps me going. It is what motivates me to wake up every day,” shares Sonal. “So, I always looked upon my dad for many things… dad is saying, so it's good for me I never thought about it,” shares architect Prathima on her father, a civil engineer, being her source of inspiration. “So, I think it was that model that they gave my parents, that finally inspired me to become an architect… I was inspired more by her (Deepa- relative/architect who designed her parent’s home) than her husband… it was her personal interactions with me as a child,” shares Shruthi about her inspiration and ‘bumblebee’s journey to architecture’.

Interior Designer Sonal Chordia of HOHM Design Studio sketches out the restoration plan for La Serenite. To watch the complete home documentary, click here.

On this expedition of plotting a route through personal challenges, family drama, and constructing a profession that makes a difference, not just to the skyline but also to Mother Nature, ‘women in practice’ is a term that prevails. In this industry where gender neutrality sits sulking on the sidelines, there are no excuses for deadlines, sourcing trips, and keeping in check with the sites and for women, their families. “I am up by about 6:15 am and I am off to the gym at about 7:00 by 8:00 I quickly make breakfast, and then I am out of the house and then you know, it’s basically shuffling between sites and office and once a week I do go to the school for children with special needs and on the side… Other things going on where you are like managing the house… I just come back for a quick lunch and then back to work… like emails, clients…etc. and then I am home by 7:00 and then it's my time,” narrates Sonal about her crazy schedule while managing her home and business. The extra hours and crazy schedule all lead to a moment of joy when the client says, “Because you are a woman you understand what a home needs to be… I mean they feel very free to talk to us… every small thing that they need in their home, they are very comfortable talking to a woman about the requirements of a home,” explains Prathima. “When it comes to expertise they have seen us, we are not anywhere lesser than any other men out there,” she beams.

Interior Designer Sonal Chordia of HOHM Design Studio cruises through La Serenite basking in the beauty of her spaces. Watch the complete video on Buildofy.


In this special episode of Women’s Day being celebrated, with the launch of books like ‘100 Women: Architects in Practice’ in the U.S., seems like putting a robust stride in the direction of inclusivity. Striving for this comprehensiveness and empowerment architect Shruti Vedavyas says, “It's (celebrating women) super important as it gives other women a lot of motivation to get back into practice… who wish they can take an active role in any form… in the field of architecture... So, I think when you recognize women in architecture it is quite inspirational for other women to come back.”

Architect Shruti Vedavyas of Dhi Architecture And Design sitting in the courtyard of Hombale Residence materializing on the airy nature of the home. Watch the complete video on Buildofy.

In this ironic industry struggling for work-life balance and fostering women in the practice, could the celebration of sheer talent regardless of gender make its case? “We will call all the men in our world, and tell… it feels nice that you are a part of our lives… So, most of the people who make our ideas happen are men actually… If somebody is congratulating me on Women’s Day, this (trophy) is for you… you’ve stood by me,” giggles Prathima. “I think they (men) have certain qualities that we (women) don’t and we have certain they don’t… I don’t think it’s a discriminating factor… It’s like sambhar from different states… there are different ingredients… like Karnataka sambar is sweeter than Tamil Nadu sambar, but at the end of the day you enjoy both right?” questions Shruthi with a rather correlation.

Architect Prathima Seethur of Wright Inspires peeks out of the design of Shiva Stuthi residence to experience the relationship of the home with the natural surroundings. Visit Buildofy for the video of the complete project walkthrough.

Coming from an even place, a conscious choice to be considerate, is all one can hope for in this modernist diary. Where an ‘architect’ is not addressed by gender as a glorified adjective, where girls in architectural colleges actually make it to women in practice, and where at last there is an admiration of art and propensity. All the while closely reminiscing in the words of Zaha Hadid where she says, “I’m an architect, not just a woman architect.”
To watch complete home tours, peruse the drawings in detail, and browse additional photographs of these projects, visit Buildofy. While there, don’t miss out on the other impressive homes across India.