Architecture professor Mary Woods first met Indian architect Brinda Somaya on her first trip to Mumbai in 1998. Somaya, Woods says, was one of the few women architects anywhere who did not practice with a family firm.
"Her isolation from established offices was good for her -- it gave her the chance to develop her architectural portfolio, from neighborhood centers to large projects such as IT campuses, museums and schools," said Woods, the Michaela McCarthy Professor of Architectural Theory in the College of Architecture, Art and Planning (AAP). She presented "Designing With a Divided Mind Across Many Worlds: The Work of Mumbai Architect Brinda Somaya" Oct. 21 in Statler Hall's Beck Center, for attendees of Cornell's Trustee-Council Annual Meeting.
Woods began by discussing images of Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater, built in 1935-36, and commenting on clips from a 2008 Bollywood film, "Jodhaa Akbar," about a Hindu-Muslim marriage in 16th-century Hindustan.
Somaya's 60-person firm is one of the largest architectural practices in Mumbai, and their projects over the last decade include the design of information technology campuses across India for Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), a company owned by the Tata Group conglomerate chaired by Ratan Tata '59, B.Arch. '62.
In an industry with high turnover, the improvements to the TCS Banyan campus and other sites can be "seen as a way of retaining the workers," she said. Some of the locations are "cyber-citie," for up to 24,000 workers, with their own power and water supplies.
Somaya's work on these campuses has been marked by minimizing glass surfaces to reduce glare, and using pergolas, screens, landscaping and other features to make the buildings more energy efficient. Somaya and American architects Tod Williams and Billi