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Woman architect leads Raipur project

india Updated: May 18, 2008 02:02 IST
Paramita Ghosh
Paramita Ghosh
Hindustan Times
Woman architect leads Raipur project

With the Twenty20 league catching the fancy of the Indian populace, Chhattisgarh could well be the next destination where an IPL match would be hosted.

“If not, competitive cricket for sure,” promises P. Joy Oomen, additional chief secretary and chairman of Naya Raipur Development Authority.

“An international stadium will be ready in six months,” he says. So will other mega heritage, housing and government projects in the new capital within a 50 sq km radius of old Raipur. And it’s all going according to a plan crafted by 35-year-old woman urban designer Sudeshna Chatterjee, who is in the lead role.

Naya Raipur is Chatterjee’s first city project and the US-based Design Influence journal has hailed Chatterjee as the “first woman urban designer to lead the creation of a designed vision for a capital city anywhere in the world”. Sudeshna who baulks at the slot, however agrees that architecture is a profession where women “don’t get the bigger jobs”.

Architect Gautam Bhatia says the glass ceiling exists in architecture in a big way. “It’s thought to be a rough profession and women can’t get their hands dirty. Interior design is their forte, is the attitude, which is why very few women in India have worked on projects on the scale of a city”.

It hasn’t stopped Chatterjee though. Backed by strong academic credentials, Sudeshna has won several awards from Jadavpur University, Kolkata where she studied architecture, the School of Planning and Architecture in New Delhi from where she received her masters in urban design and most recently from the US-based Environment Design Research Association. She completed her PhD thesis in 2006 on child-friendly cities from the University of North Carolina, US, when she was hired as consultant by CES, a large engineering firm with all-India offices.

“In 2006, CES had created a good master plan for Naya Raipur. But it was two-dimensional,” says the architect. “The client, NRDA asked for development patterns beyond a colored parcel of land, for forms which would help them visualize the city and for landscape strategies that would make the experience of the city memorable. And CES appointed our firm to create an urban design vision for Naya Raipur under my leadership,” she said.