This architect, urbanist and writer is the bellwether of building delineations in a country that urgently needs to shift its focus to socially sustainable design. Her work—a diverse mix of projects, including residences, commercial and institutional—is a rare example of a planner who has kept her eye on the larger welfare of public sector initiatives dealing with social development through architecture.
Amritha is a founding partner at SpaceMatters, a design firm consulting on architecture, interior and urban design. In their work with the government on projects such as mohalla clinics, anganwadis and sports complexes, the outfit has penetrated the most economically-vulnerable and infrastructurally-deprived parts of Delhi.
“We bring much-needed health, education and youth-related recreational facilities to these communities. While attention is given to mega urban projects, fine-grained grassroots interventions such as these projects lead to incremental change on the ground,” says Amritha.
Her latest programme, the Institut Francais en Inde in Delhi, gave her the opportunity to interpret French culture, design, art and its intersections with the Indian ethos and context. Renovating a century-old Lutyens era building was another rare opportunity for her.
India’s red tape climate saddens her. “Much talent goes waste because often the process of awarding projects is corrupt or grossly unfair, especially in the public sector where the decks are tilted in favour of a few,” she rues.
By focusing on sustainable design and inclusive cities, Amritha and partners have spearheaded projects such as integrated development plans for an urban village in Delhi, the Bhopal Gas Tragedy brownfield redevelopment, and urban renewal of living heritage precincts in Ajmer and Margao. She knows when to bite her tongue and when to use it.
While her team and she deal with the popular lack of awareness of what good design entails and costs, they have transfigured their frustration into a delicate equipoise of diplomacy and discretion.
Amritha Ballal, 36 Architect, Urbanist & Writer