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In conversation with Shimul Javeri Kadri

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Architect Shimul Javeri Kadri talks to us about the things that inspire her and the kind of projects that she likes to work on

Shimul Kadri completed her architecture degree in Mumbai and her Masters in Urban Planning from the University of Michigan, and set up her Mumbai-based firm SJK Architects in 1990. We spoke to her about the projects that have become key landmarks in her over 25-year-long career and about the changes she’d like to see in the architecture profession.

When did you know you wanted to study architecture?
I was 12-13 years of age and wanted to do something that combines the arts and sciences, and somebody mentioned that architecture was a good stream. I began looking at architects and at buildings differently and that made me keen. Though my parents were not okay with it. Such was their resistance that I found myself attending classes across three colleges—engineering, medical and architecture—for a month, until my parents left town. Then, they wanted me to study at JJ but I was quite taken by the Academy of Architecture in Prabhadevi.

What kind of projects do you enjoy working on?
Those that have a great sense of history and are public in character. They should contribute to the ethos of an environment and allow public interaction. For instance, the Mumbai-based Ayurvedic health centre that I designed very early on in my career. Many projects came after that, which included private bungalows. And although they all defined my career path, I enjoyed working on a textile factory in Karur, Tamil Nadu, where we incorporated several local details and constructed an eco-friendly structure. There’s also the World Architecture Award winner, 

A portrait of Shimul Javeri Kadri

Architect Shimul Javeri Kadri.

Nirvana Films, which is an urban prototype. It was a tight site yet we were able to create a staircase and a courtyard. The entire building adapts to its micro-climate. Many of our projects such as a hotel in Tirupati, the Mahindra Design Studio, etc have gone on to win awards across the globe.

What are you inspired by?
A lot of things—integrated and detailed structures that have been built in India, any form of design, nature, imagery, something someone says. I read a very lovely line that has stayed with me. It goes: You should take yourself lightly and the world more seriously.

Is there a structure you wish you’d designed?
No, but there are structures we’ve designed and wish they were built.

An occupational hazard is...
Vagaries of construction in India—it could be the permits, the economy or the fact that both can make projects disappear. There are no guarantees.

Your pet peeve is... 
I feel that the profession is not respected or remunerated for the effort that architects put in.

The one thing you love to do, when in Mumbai…
Walking, anywhere. I have a pair of shoes in each of my cars and if we’re stuck in traffic, my driver is very used to seeing me get off and walk as far as I wish to.

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