SUNITA KOHLI: SPACES, ART AND LEGACY |Best Women Architects | Ar. Mohsin Sheikh


Welcome back to the blog. We are here with yet another blog on again an interesting topic. Some weeks back we wrote a blog on 10 best women architects in India. If you haven’t read that blog you are missing out on something exciting. This is the extension for the same starting with Padma Shri Sunita Kohli. Yes, you heard it right she has received the Fourth Highest Civilian Award, is an excellent restorer and a Diverse Author. We’ll be taking a tour through Sunita’s life.

Sunita Kohli
Sunita Kohli

Growing up in the post-independence Lucknow, in a noted Victorian building of Lakshmi Mansions, little did Sunita Kohli know, that her visits to numerous auctions and sales with her father, her interest in classical music, and much later her antiquarian business of Davenport desks and Regency wine tables would collectively lead her to becoming one of the most celebrated interior designers and architectural restorers of the country, for which, she has been honoured with the Padma Shri in 1992. She achieved this despite being an autodidact and without any formal training in design. Interestingly, she learnt restoration from the local craftsmen.

Photo by Rahul Pandit on

It all began with her establishing ‘Sunita Kohli & Co.’ (furniture manufacturing cell) and ‘Sunita Kohli Interior Designs Pvt. Ltd’ (Interior designing cell), in New Delhi in 1971 and 1972 respectively. These both now come under the larger multidisciplinary umbrella of K2 India, along with ‘Kohelika Kohli Architects’ (Architecture and Project Management cell), established in 2004.

Besides restoration and furniture design works, in 1970’s, she also began working on hotels when she established in partnership, another design firm which was commissioned to design a small hotel for the Oberoi Group, near the Khajuraho temples, The Oberoi in Bhubaneshwar and the Hotel Babylon in Baghdad. This firm closed but other hotel design projects followed in Cairo, Aswan and El-Arish in Egypt- The Oberoi Marriott Mena House Hotel and Casino, two luxury hotel cruise boats on the Nile for the Oberoi Group.

The Oberoi Aswan in Upper Egypt and The Oberoi in El-Arish.She has helped preserve national treasures in forms of numerous heritage buildings, forts and palaces in India, Pakistan, Bhutan and Sri Lanka. The most prominent ones being the Rashtrapati Bhavan (1985-89), the Parliament Building, the Prime Minister’s Office and Secretariat as well as the official residence of the Prime Minister – Sir Edwin Lutyens, Sir Herbert Baker and Sir Robert Tor Russell’s foremost architectural legacies from the British Raj in the capital city of Delhi.

Photo by Tim Fuzail on

Her innate attention to detail and efforts are evident owing to the fact, that before setting out on this mammoth task, she made several private trips to London to study Lutyens’ original drawings, which are archived at the Royal Institute of British Architects. In the reupholstering of the furniture, she used khadi – the homespun, handwoven fabric, symbolising the freedom struggle and national pride. She was also involved in the second restoration of the Rashtrapati Bhavan, in 2010, with Charles Correa.

In 1988, she designed the National Assembly Building of Bhutan, in Thimpu, on which K2 India worked again in 2010 for the SAARC summit. The building is an amalgamation of delicate geometry and motifs of the traditional Bhutanese architecture, housing various spaces and volumes.

K2India is driven by the pursuit of excellence and quality. They strongly believe that one’s surroundings directly influence the quality of one’s lives – whether in the work place, at home or the public spaces in between. Their approach is rooted in a firm belief that design is fundamental to improving the quality of life, and with an integrated and unified approach, it can become a total functional and living WORK OF ART.

This philosophy is well evident in their interior design projects and product designs, which are combinations of aesthetics and functionality that yield warmth and comfort. They have designed for several private residences in plush neighbourhoods of Delhi, examples being, the German ambassador’s residence, The Aravali House, Gauri Apartments, The Terrace apartment, Delhi etc. Commercial projects include Underdogs Sports bar and Grill, Warehouse Lounge, Flagship office of Indian Express, Gyms in Mumbai and Delhi etc.

Apart from being a highly accomplished professional, Sunita Kohli has regularly lectured at universities of institutions of high merit globally, including Harvard Kennedy School and at Emory University, Atlanta. She also has books on diverse topics (such as cooking, architecture, interior design etc) to her credit and has regularly presented papers in leading museums and universities across the world on ‘Sir Edwin Lutyens and the Planning of New Delhi’; on Design, Architecture and Historical Conservation; on Literature; on ‘Traditional Mughal Jewellery as a Statement of Empire’; on ‘Social Entrepreneurship’; and on ‘World Heritage Cultural Sites in India and the Subcontinent’.

She is also associated with several NGO’s and foundations which work for women and children welfare. Ms Kohli is a Founder Trustee of ‘Satyagyan’, (an affiliate of ‘World Literacy of Canada’), an organizationthat works in over 400 slum communities in Varanasi and its environs with children’s education and women’sempowerment through literacy and Vocational training.

She is also the Chairperson of the Governing Council of ‘SAVE-A-MOTHER’, a leadingNGO which is dedicated to decreasing maternal and infant mortality rates in India in 1200 districts in India. She was the first Indian architect invited to give a seminal lecture on India at the National Building Museum in Washington DC. As we mentioned earlier, she’s a diverse Author, here is one of her books which shows the versatility it’s a cooking genre of book.

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Top 9 Female Architects Of India You Should Know About| Ar. Mohsin Sheikh

If I ask you if you can name 10 Architects?

Automatically, certain male figures come to your mind. We give importance to female architects in our society as much only as we give importance to our civic exam in our school days. There’s a lot have been happening and we want to let you know through this blog.

“definitely the societal conditioning of girl children would help us in the near future, before it becomes the flat world of “Architectural practice” without any gender stereotyping, in creating an inclusive society….” – Chitra Vishwanath 

From Padma Shri to Social Activist to the researcher their contribution towards Architecture is impeccable. Although there are a lot many who are worth writing this is our list of some of the finest.

Sunita Kohli (Padma Shri, 1992)

Sunita Kohli
Sunita Kohli

A renowned architectural restorer and interior designer, Sunita Kohli has worked across several realms and countries. Her multi-disciplinary firm, K2 India (encompassing architectural design, restoration, interior design, furniture design & manufacture, project management, and research) was established in 1971 in New Delhi.

While K2 India continues to deliver quality in a varied range of projects, their approach is laced with the belief that “design is fundamental to improving the quality of lifeand with an integrated and unified approach, it can become a total functional and living WORK OF ART.” It is for this ceaseless and multifaceted effort that she has been honored, besides Padma Shri, with Mahila Shiromani Award by Mother Teresa.  


Restoration of the Rashtrapati Bhawan, the Prime Minister’s Office, and Official Residence,

Design of National Assembly Building & Building of the SAARC Summit, Bhutan.



Ar. Madhavi Desai

Ar. Madhavi Desai
Ar. Madhavi Desai

A passionate researcher, professor, writer, and speaker, Ar. Madhavi Desai has contributed to the field remarkably. In 1994 she received a Visiting Scholar position at the renowned Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture, MIT, and Harvard, USA. She has also been adjunct faculty at CEPT University, Ahmedabad.

Besides this, she is also one of the principal architects at Archicrafts studio, along with Miki Desai. They are focused on quality research on architecture in the Indian & South Asian context and ‘Creating a link between the community and the discipline of architecture while developing a focus on women and children.’


Co-author – Architecture and Independence: The Search for Identity: India 188 to 1980,

Women Architects and Modernism in India: Narratives and Contemporary Practices.

Traditional Architecture: House Form of the Islamic Community of the Bohras in Gujarat

Editor – Women and the Built Environment in India.

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Ar. Samira Rathod.

Ar. Samira Rathod
Ar. Samira Rathod

A few feathers in Ar. Samira Rathod’s hat is those of being a furniture designer, writer & teacher. Principal architect at Samira Rathod Design Associates (SRDA, founded in 2000), she has several projects to her credit, that aptly justify the firm’s approach – ‘the philosophy of the architecture of BLIRS – beautiful, local, indigenous, recycle and small. Poetry draws the distinction between a piece of architecture and a mere building.’

In 2008, she founded SPADE, a critical architectural publication with a focus on Indian architecture. She is also an adjunct faculty member at the Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute for Architecture and Environmental Studies (KRVIA) in Mumbai.


The Karjat House, Karjat (The Habitat Award for Single Residence Winner’s Trophy),

School of Dancing arches in Bhadran Gujarat, The Shadow House, The Broacha house, Wall as a room experiment.

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Ar. Shubhra Raje

Ar. Shubhra Raje
Ar. Shubhra Raje

Founder of Shubhra Raje_built environments, an interdisciplinary design & research practice, Ar. Shubhra Raje is an architect and an educator. Her practice is based in Ahmedabad, India, and Denver, USA. She has successfully executed several designs (ranging from institutional to housing to art spaces etc), renovation, graphics, and storytelling programs as well as conservation projects.

A binding aspect in her designs is the innate understanding of the context paired with the premise – The work is the product of several intersections – of cultures, interests, scales, and geographies. It involves making places of learning, living, healing, and work through renovations, interventions, and re-use as well as new construction.’


Village Exchange Centre, Aurora CO (2017 – present), Aglod Township, North Gujarat, India (2015),

Architectural Conservation of the Shuneh el Zebib Abydos, Egypt; a University of Pennsylvania- Yale- Institute of Fine Arts [NYU] Project

Book – Co-editor of Anant Raje Architect: Selected Works 1974-2009

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Ar. Neera Adarkar

Neera Adarkar
Ar. Neera Adarkar

In a career that spans over several aspects such as design, conservation, research, books and print media, digital media, and public & cultural work, Ar. Neera Adarkar has contributed tirelessly to the field of architecture and many others. She joined Adarkar and Associates in 1980, as a partner with Ar. Arvind Adarkar. The team of Adarkar Associates looks at architectural space as a medium to create an environment that transcends beyond fulfilling the functional requirements.

Besides being an expert as author and researcher in print media, she is also often seen gracing the electronic media. She has written and spoken about various cultural, heritage, urban and gender issues, both in and outside India.



  1. ‘One Hundred Years: One Hundred Voices, Oral History Mill workers of Girangaon, Co-Authored with Meena Menon, Seagull publishers. 2004
  2. Women and Infrastructural Amenities in Urban Housing Women and Shelter, Published by the University of Michigan, USA. 1992

Heritage listing for the island city of Mumbai MMR-HCS MMRDA.

YUVA Centre at Kharghar, Melody Housing Complex at Pune, Factory for Endress + Hausser at Aurangabad.



Ar. Anupama Kundoo

Ar. Anupama Kundoo
Ar. Anupama Kundoo

An internationally renowned architect, author, and researcher, Ar Anupama Kundoo is known for her innovative approach, extensive research, and experimentation in architecture. She established herself as an architect in Auroville in 1990 where she designed and built many buildings with “energy and water-efficient infrastructure” adaptations.

She truly believes that current methods of construction are causing more problems than they can solve. She expresses her design approach clearly by stating: “My designs are not driven by the worry that the world will end, but by finding ways to make the most with what one has.” She is currently a Professor at UCJC Madrid where she is Chair of ‘Affordable Habitat’. She is also the Strauch Visiting Critic at Cornell University.


The Wall House, Residence for Pierre Tran, Fulfill Homes, Auroville Village Action Group Centre, Auroville

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Ar. Amritha Ballal

Ar. Amritha Ballal
Ar. Amritha Ballal

An architect and urban planner, Ar. Amritha Ballal is one of the founding partners of Space Matters, one of the few first-generation, women-led practices in the country. She has taught at the School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi, and is the co-editor of the international publication ‘Bhopal 2011-Landscapes of Memory.’ She has been named in the annual international shortlist of emerging woman architects Architecture Journal, the UK in 2013.

Space Matters was established in 2005 in New Delhi by Amritha Ballal, Moulshri Joshi, and Suditya Sinha – friends, collaborators, and alumnus of the School of Planning & Architecture. The works of Space Matters spans across scales, contexts, and media. These works rest of the firm belief that – As we urbanize rapidly, each project offers us a chance to put out ear to the ground and listen to how our cities and communities are organized, how space is shared, and negotiated.


Vidya Devi Jindal Paramedical College, Haryana, Shiv Nadar Cultural Centre, Sri Aurobindo School of Art and Communication, New Delhi.



Ar. Brinda Somaya

Ar. Brinda Somaya
Ar. Brinda Somaya

A contemporary architect and urban conservationist, Ar. Brinda Somaya has contributed to the field for over four decades now. She is the founder of Somaya and Kalappa Consultants and has numerous design and conservation projects to her credit. In 2014, she was awarded the IIA – Baburao Mhatre Gold Medal for Lifetime Achievement.  Her philosophy: “The architect’s role is that of guardian: hers is the conscience of the built and unbuilt environment.”

The works of Somaya and Kalappa Consultants is a result of extensive research and understanding of the site and cultural context. These are public buildings, institutional campuses, museums, housing, technology parks, etc, each handled carefully as per scale and material. they are a collaborative practice and have strong working relationships with several international firms, notably Jim Polshek, Pie Cobb Freed and Partners, OMA, etc.


TCS Campus at Indore, Project INDIGO in UAE, Nalanda International Middle School in Vadodra, Associate architects for World One Towers in Mumbai.

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Ar. Chitra Vishwanath

Ar. Chitra Vishwanath
Ar. Chitra Vishwanath

An architect, known largely for her work related to ecology and environment-friendly architecture, Ar. Chitra Vishwanath, for almost 3 decades has ceaselessly contributed to the making of architecture that creates a difference. She is the Principal Architect & Managing Director of BIOME Environment Solutions Private Limited. Her approach places emphasis on indigenous natural resources, in both an active and passive manner.

She has been involved in more than 500 projects encompassing construction of buildings of all sizes and water harvesting and sanitation structures with specific relevance to the ecology of the sites. These buildings can attract local plants and birds, so as to create unique and comfortable spaces. As part of the range of resources used, “mud” is a major component since it is well suited for local conditions, is relatively labor-intensive and locally available.


Govardhan Eco Village, Swastika Dance School, Reitzel Guest House, Buddhi School, Oland Estate

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Ar. Rupali Gupte, Founder, and Co-Professor at SEA.

Ar. Aishwarya Tipnis, Conservation Architect.

Ar. Monica Chadha, Founder & Principal Architect, CIVIC Projects.

This was a brief introduction to a few eminent women architects of India. But this, is the tip of the iceberg…!! There is so much more to these women, their lives, and their work. Comment below and let me know if you would love to embark upon a fascinating journey across their stories…!

This blog wouldn’t have been possible with our team. Special thanks to Madhura Kulkarni for helping me out with this blog, I can’t thank you enough. Please show some love for Madhura in the comment section.

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