Feminist Collective in Architecture

Miki Desai, Madhavi Desai

The Feminist Collective in Architecture was conceived with the intention of mobilizing professionals, academicians and students to discuss and act upon issues of gender inherent in the discipline and the profession. What began as a series of informal discussions over a few months, became a collective in March 2021. Initiated by Madhavi Desai, Urvi Desai, Miki Desai, Himani Vinodrai and Priyanshi Pathak, FCA has now grown into a vibrant community of feminists collectively working towards the cause. Members of the collective meet on a regular basis and organize activities to initiate conversations on gender bias and challenges in the field.

The Collective aims to create and expand spaces for non cis-males in architecture, primarily in India, but also beyond. By doing so, it strives to promote gender equity and gender richness in the discipline of architecture. It is a platform for bringing together people, skills, resources and research; generating ideas, debates and discussions, and providing support to advance the status of marginalised genders and identities.

We reach out to every feminist (belonging to any gender) committed to the cause of gender equity in architecture and invite you to join the Collective. As a group that seeks to eradicate the various forms of patriarchal oppression, discrimination and gender inequity in the field of architecture, we particularly welcome anyone who has experienced it, in any form or measure, to become part of the Collective and join the efforts to overcome them. Similar initiatives exist at global level, for example, in Europe, USA and Australia, but are largely missing in South Asian countries. This is an attempt to begin small with a hope to spread it further for the good of all.

Women Architcets Forum

Madhavi Desai

It is amply evident that in our society women and men are brought up differently. This difference emerges from the "natural" assumption that the biological difference between women and men makes them appropriate for different social roles. This results in imbalances and discriminatory social policies which inhibit equal opportunity and growth. Women's talents and contributions to society remain largely invisible in the history of social progress. This invisibility has adversely affected women in all walks of life, including women in architecture.

The first All India Women Architects' Meet was held at the Visual Art Centre, CEPT Campus, on August 17-18, 1991. It was organised by the newly formed Women Architects' Forum, Ahmedabad, co-sponsored by Women Architects' Board, the Indian Institute of Architects. About 60 women architects had gathered for this exploratory meet. It was a simple, democratic, and self-supporting event where the focus was on the development of a professional identity. The aim was to provide a platform for interaction among women architects, to increase awareness in self, profession, and society and to look for ways to enhance confidence and involvement in the field of architecture. The issues presented and discussed ranged from gender discrimination in the architectural practice and its consequent problems, to the need to recognize women as critical users of built-form. The meet generated a warm atmosphere which promoted a free and uninhibited discussion ranging from the analysis of one's design process through project presentations to the practical problems in the profession. Padmabhushan Elaben Bhatt, founder of SEWA, met with the participants for an hour on the 17th August, 1991, and expressed her support and belief in such a group for professional strength and effectiveness. The women’s group also had an informal discussion with Smt. Giraben Sarabhai on the 18th August, 1991, including a visit to the Calico Museum. Though there were no formal resolutions, the participants agreed to prepare a data-base of the women architects in India, to attempt to be more effective in the mainstream of architectural education and profession and to raise awareness in the society at large through publications and research studies. We as women architects can begin exploring the relationship between architecture and women: Women as designers of built and non-built form and women as users of these spaces. Many attitudes, designs and codes could be reassessed from this point of view: whether buildings designed today reflect the present needs and future desires of women: whether women's experiences are considered in the Development Plan or Development Control Rules; and whether planning for the future incorporates equal participation of women at all levels or will continue to be dominated by a "male vision" of an ideal society.

With an open and searching attitude, we meet to show solidarity, to have meaningful interaction and to enhance our competence in the mainstream profession of architecture. We attempt to create awareness in self, colleagues, and society at large through the exhibition and presentation of our work. We hope to address social issues that percolate down to various levels of the profession to make ourselves more effective. We strive to develop collective confidence and consciousness among ourselves to be able to play a more decisive role in academics, research, and professional bodies. We wish to sensitize ourselves to women's issues in our dealing with other women in all spheres of our professional life. Thus, through awareness, solidarity, and a strong identity, we look forward to a more positive future in the field of architecture.

International Seminar on Vernacular Settlements

Miki Desai

ISVS, the International Seminar on Vernacular Settlements, is amongst the long running seminar series in the field of Vernacular Architecture and Settlement studies. Started in the year 1999 in Depok, Indonesia the seminar has travelled to different parts of the world such as India, Sri Lanka, North Cyprus, Turkey and Thailand. In the process, ISVS has created a community of scholars, professionals and academic that have contributed to the seminar in various capacities. Prof. Miki Desai is the board member since 2008 and has been a keynote speaker of the conference twice, in the year 2014 and 2021.