Samatva - Shaping the Built
Red Fort, Delhi
National exhibition on gender parity in design and architecture bringing focus to the work of 80 women architects at the India Art Architecture & Design Biennale held over 2023-24
‘Samatva’ (Sanskrit: समत्व) stands for ‘equity’ which is what the exhibition ‘Samatva - Shaping the Built’ talks about in the fields of design and architecture, through the lens of gender. While women across the world have been an integral part of shaping our built environment in diverse ways, their contribution has often been overlooked and not always recognised. According to data compiled by ArchitectureLive!, while 60% of students of architecture in India are women, the representation of women in the professional practice is a mere 20% today. This gap becomes all the more glaring if we consider that the Council of Architecture has not had a single woman or transgender president since its inception in 1972.
How may we support more women to occupy positions of power, leadership and visibility is the kind of critical public discourse the exhibition aims to create. This is why the exhibition at India’s first Art Architecture and Design Biennale organized by the Ministry of Culture honors the work of 80 women architects from India, across ages and geographies. It also celebrates the 100th anniversary of Eulie Roy Chowdhary, the “unsung hero of Chandigarh” who has shaped the architecture of the city for which Le Corbusier has been singularly lauded over time.
The exhibition invites you into a collective ‘Studio’ hall showcasing not just the work of showcased architects but also their process. Put together through discussions with them, it also displays their personal journeys, ideologies and leadership styles. Drawings and sketches on drafting tables, process models and prototypes offer the behind-the-scenes glimpse into studios of the showcased architects, and the creatively stimulating spaces they are.
Alongside this are two silent galleries offering stunning views of the Red Fort while featuring oral histories of 8 women architects, put together by Curating for Culture as part of their archival project ‘Women of Vaastukala’. A living room created within the ‘Studio’ hall invited visitors for evening conversations with some of the showcasing architects on each of the 7 days of the inaugural week between 9-15th December 2023 on how architectural practice has evolved post-Independence and the role of gender in it. Right outside the exhibition building at Red Fort, visitors participated in activities and discussions on the contribution of construction workers organized by Sehreeti Developmental Practices during the week.
A second part of the exhibition draws you into field work, showcasing the materiality of the construction site, focusing on not just women architects but also construction workers and crafts workers. The ‘Site’ hall showcases finished work, along with the hands-on nature of the profession through 1:1 prototypes and hand-made installations which have been transported from around the country to the exhibition venue. Visitors also participated in a hands-on installation in mud created by Masons Ink through the course of the inaugural week.
Finally, a timeline room developed in collaboration with Madhavi Desai maps all the feminist collective efforts in architecture from the 90s until today to bring recognition to the work of women architects in India leading up to this exhibition at the India Art Architecture and Design Biennale 2023, a first of its kind national platform showcasing exhibits by 50 women architects and designers of India. The exhibition is open from 10 am to 5pm at the Red Fort till the end of March 2024.