Part 17 of a month-long celebration of Women’s History Month
One of the first women to qualify to practice architecture in Asia, Urmila Eulie Chowdhury (1923-95) was educated broadly as a diplomat’s daughter. After to travels and studies in Japan, the United States, and Australia–where she earned a degree in architecture from the University of Sydney in 1947–she went to work as an architect for the Government of Punjab. Just four years after India’s independence, in 1951 she was swept into the vast team of local architects, headed by Drew and Fry and Le Corbusier, working on the new capital at Chandigarh. In particular, she designed the Home Science College, the Women’s Polytechnic (above), and housing for ministers. She also provided translation services for Le Corbusier, who could not understand English. Later she would complete formal translations of Corbusier’s writings into English, and write for significant professional journals like Progressive Architecture and Casabella.
Finding a niche in administration, between 1963-65 Chowdhury directed the School of Architecture in Delhi and filled increasingly significant government positions as Chief State Architect of Haryana (1970-76) and Punjab (1976-81) provinces. Member of both the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Indian Institute of Architects, she founded the French Alliance Le Corbusier of Chandigarh. Chowdhury is at the center of a very recent turn in India to reconsider its architectural history from a feminist point of view, and to seek contributions from women that have been otherwise overlooked.