The Harvard graduated Indian architect, Ar Sheila Sri Prakash is internationally acclaimed for her expertise in sustainable architecture. Pioneering as the first women architect to establish her firm in India, she is also a trained Bharatnatyam and Kuchipudi dancer as well as a musician, painter, and sculptor.
Sheila Sri Prakash founded her own Architectural Design firm 'Shilpa Architects', in Chennai in 1979 followed by her graduation from School of Architecture & Planning, Anna University, in 1977 and a 12 weeks executive education program at Harvard University's Graduate School of Design.
Born in Bhopal, India on 6 July 1955, Sheila Sri Prakash is an army kid. Designing successfully over 1200 projects, Prakash is known for her trendsetting indo-centric designs, thought-leading contributions to environment-friendly design and socio-economically sensitive planning. Many of her projects are known to be based on local arts, culture, and heritage. She was named among the Top 100 most influential architects in the world by Il Giornale dell' Architectura, an Italian Journal of Architecture.
Ar Prakash has gained her fame by introducing vernacular and culturally relevant techniques into contemporary designs. She is the founding practitioner-researcher who identified and defined the field of Spaciology—the impact of space design and planning on society.
“My sensitivity to space comes from dance. In dance, a notional space and characters are created. In architecture, one creates the ambience and elements that give expression to the residents' dreams. Dance has influenced my thinking as an architect”, claims Ar Sheila Sri Prakash. Her work probes the powerful reciprocal impact linking the built environment to human behaviour through urban design, architecture, and sociology.
In July 2016, Professor Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum invited Ar Prakash to be a part of the 25-member Global Agenda Council for Design Innovation. She is also widely consulted on matters of urban sustainability by several governments and is closely associated with the Chennai Smart City (board of the SPV) as an Independent Director and Urban Expert. Moreover, she is a founding member of the Indian Green Building Council.
Her portfolio of architectural endeavours include the low-cost Reciprocal House for the socio-economically underprivileged that she designed on invitation from the World Bank in 1987, first of its kind energy-efficient commercial buildings, custom bungalows, residential communities, integrated townships, industrial facilities, art museums, sports stadiums, centres of education, public infrastructure, and luxury hotels.
Among this varied range, her work can be distinctively spotted at the Mahindra World City, the Madras Art House, the Cholamandal Artists' Village, Kuchipudi Art Academy in Chennai, the Paranur railway station and the World Bank-funded urban housing development program in the year of shelter for the shelterless, 1982.
In 1993, Sheila Sri Prakash designed a home in Chennai with recycled materials and included a system of rainwater harvesting. This, in turn, inspired the government to make rainwater harvesting mandatory in Tamil Nadu later. It set a blueprint across India, as the most effective and low-cost solution for addressing the crisis of depletion of freshwater sources in the country.
Prakash received the “Bene Merenti” award in 2017 by the University of Architecture and Urbanism, Bucharest, Romania and the Ministry of National Education and Scientific Research as a global acknowledgment for championing the cause of sustainability in International forums. She is also recognised for her contributions as an active member of Zonta International, an organisation that aims to enhance the status of women around the world.
After her contribution to the modern architecture for about 5 decades, Ar Sheila Sri Prakash was recently honoured with the Lifetime Achievement in the field of Architecture Award in 2019 by the BAM (Builders, Architects, and Building Materials) in association with CII Real Estate & Building Technology Exhibition.
Her outstanding achievements and contribution to sustainable design thinking are unpaired in the growth of the Indian real estate sector.