Renowned architect Brinda Somaya is all set to curate the ‘Women in Design 2020+’ international conference, which will see more than 35 women in architecture and design from all over the world share their stories. This is the second such conference she is about to launch, as she had organised a similar one, twenty years ago, where women architects from India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan had converged to speak about their accomplishments.
At her first conference, in 2000, a common question from several men was, “Are we allowed?” Hoping the question has been answered by now, she prepares for the launch of the conference, at the Nehru Centre, on January 8th, set to go on till the 10th.
Somaya said, “I hope there are more men in the audience than there were back in 2000. I want the conference to be an equalizer.” She emphasised that it is vital for everyone to listen to and celebrate the accomplishments of women in architecture, design, and other creative fields, battling countless stereotypes and challenges in establishing an independent office. She also added, “We’ve invited speakers from every continent except Antarctica.”
The conference was organised by Somaya’s firm, in association with The HECAR Foundation, a non-profit organisation that aims to educate the general public about architecture, heritage, and several contemporary urban issues. The event features discussions among prominent architects like Abha Narain Lambah, Shimul Javeri Kadri, and Annabelle Selldorf, a German architect who had launched her firm in New York City in 1988. The speakers will also include Billie Tsein, from Tod Williams Billie Tsein Architects, the Manhattan Studio that designed the Obama Presidential Centre in Chicago, and Joana Dabaj from London, who has rebuilt several camps in war-torn Syria.
Reportedly, the idea of organising a follow up to her 2000 conference came to Somaya when she and her daughter Nandini were working on a book that catalogues their works. This reminded her of the first event, for which, Somaya had invited Yasmeen Laari, the first woman architect of Pakistan. Along with providing immense networking opportunities and guidance, the conference also led to a book being published and workshops being conducted for women professionals looking to return to work, after motherhood.
This inspired her, and she decided to leverage her own personal connections to have speakers brought down who would speak about their works and thoughts this year. In addition to that, an exhibition titled ’20 Year Manifesto’ will also be organised at the Goethe-Institut Max Mueller Bhavan, highlighting several practices led by women from a wide number of creative fields.