Reassessing Architectural Practice in Liberalised (post-1991) India: A Case of Mumbai-based SJK Architects
I am an urban middle-class, heterosexual, Indian woman. A storyteller at heart, for me, design history is a medium to understand the contemporary world through the act of design. I then seek to communicate these narratives to a wider audience to foster a better design culture, and make visible design’s value and impact.
During the MA, my research centered on South Asian material culture (a pair of 19th century gold bracelets made in South India), influence of kitchen technologies on housework (microwave cooking in the UK from 1980-2010), and approaching architectural practice in contemporary India through the lens of factors influencing day-to-day operations of practice such as geographical location, network of external collaborators such as consultants and clients, among others.
I conducted the dissertation research by taking as a case-study, a Mumbai-based woman-led studio practice, SJK Architects, established in 1990. Factors which influence practice, such as location, organisational structure, media coverage, external collaborators, and nature of commissioning clients, are profiled through published academic and media works, and serve as a device to understand SJK Architects. These factors are then contextualised within the practice’s response to gender and development of architect-client relations. Insights for this are drawn from an interview with the design directors focussing on how these factors overlap with the stage of the client brief development. Such an approach situates the study of architecture within the societal landscape in which professional practice occurs, and provides an opportunity to look at design as a social process, and not just one where the architect and their design ideology are the hero.
My other projects at the MA have centered around gaining exposure to diverse museum practices such as collections management, audience engagement and interpretation, data entry for the collections page of museum websites, and digital curation. Through a writing project, I focussed on the issue of underrepresentation of creative industry professionals, and wrote an essay discussing the viability of coworking spaces as workspaces for creative industry professionals in India. I am also involved in a project by UK-based Cypher Billboard to map the hostile environment in higher arts education in the UK. The thread tying these different projects is my inclination to develop the necessary skills to make the impact of design more visible in everyday society.