Neera Adarkar graduated from Sir J J College of Architecture, Mumbai and finished her post graduation from IIT Bombay. She has received Honorary Doctorate from University of Leuven, Belgium in 2014.
She runs a joint practice under Adarkar Associates in architecture, heritage and research. She has been a visiting faculty in various schools of architecture in Mumbai. She is at present one of the founder trustees and chairperson of School of Environment and Architecture (SEA), founded by eight architects who perceive architecture not as iconic buildings but comprehend it in a larger cultural and urban context.
Ms. Adarkar’s concern on social, urban and gender issues has resulted in her association with various civil society organizations in Mumbai. She has been on a Government-appointed Committee of Experts on Dharavi Redevelopment Project. She is also one of the founder members of Women Architects Forum, which in the early nineties initiated women architects to revisit their own profession and the built environment at large with a gender perspective.
She has tried to integrate the concerns of the vulnerable in her work as an architect and as a writer. She and her husband played a crucial role in the Mill Land Struggle, the protest that followed on the heels of the collapse of Mumbai’s once-thriving cotton industry. This work resulted in two books which conserves the modern urban history of the city.
One Hundred Years One Hundred Voices, Oral History of Millworkers of Girangaon, which won two awards and an anthology of a unique urban housing typology: The Chawls of Mumbai: Galleries of Life.
In conversation with Surfaces Reporter...
As a person who has managed distinct roles, participated in various activities simultaneously with great success, what is your one advice to young aspiring women?
It is not difficult to manage several roles. You need to be alert to the challenges which your town/city is constantly throwing at you. Most of them would be connected in some way or the other to your field -architecture, planning, urban design and design. They need to be grasped and then engaged with as per your interests. If you push the boundaries; both, of our own discipline/profession and of our own capabilities/engagements you will discover new terrains.
“Organising a conference focussing on women architects and designers is a courageous and commendable step in the mainstream profession.”
Tell us a little bit about your early days, where you always inclined towards urban research.
My interest in Urban research was inspired by my engagement with two major socio-political movements. First was the Women’s movement during which I started examining the discipline of architecture/planning from a gender lens and did some empirical studies to discover how the built environment is gendered and further what actions need to be taken to correct it. Second opportunity was during the formulation of the state policies regarding the development of the Textile Mill lands which were situated in the heart of the city of Mumbai. My involvement with the mill labour movement provided me with a more sharpened and comprehensive perspective for urban planning. This resulted into co-authoring a book based on the oral histories of the industrial neighbourhood of Mumbai.