Delhi-based architect Swati Janu awarded the 2022 Moira Gemmil Prize for Emerging Architecture | News


Swati Janu conversing with community members at ModSkool in Delhi. Image courtesy of Social Design Collaborative.

Swati Janu conversing with community members at ModSkool in Delhi. Image courtesy of Social Design Collaborative.

The W Awards, formerly known as the Women in Architecture awards, announce this year’s Moira Gemmill Prize for Emerging Architecture winner. The awards program was created to recognize the work and achievements of female and non-binary designers in professional practice under the age of 45.

Last year’s prize was awarded to six female architects part of the architecture practice Lacol. This year’s Moira Gemmill Prize for Emerging Architecture goes to architect Swati Janu.

Social Design Collaborative’s ModSkool in Delhi, a modular, low-cost school designed to help communities quickly dismantle the structure as a means to protect it from demolitions. The Modskool was awarded the Beazley Design of the Year 2020 in Architecture. Learn more about the project here. Image courtesy of the Architectural Review.

The Delhi-based architect, writer, and community artist is the founder of Social Design Collaborative. Her practice focuses on integrating architectural activism and community engagement with design and policy advocacy, specifically in the city of Delhi and territories around the Yamuna River.

Upon reviewing the work of this year’s shortlisted candidates, the judges expressed that Janu’s work along with the work of Social Design Collaborative is “evidence that it is okay for architects not always to build but to support people who are already building.”

ModSkool. Image © Suryan//Dang. Courtesy of the Architectural Review.

Janu’s work emphasizes the importance of providing local communities with the skills and tools to aid them when planning processes try to evict within the area. “We are a community-driven architectural and art practice based in Delhi,” as stated on her practice’s site. “We support self-organized communities through the collective building of schools, anganwadis, and community spaces. Working with farmers, street vendors, waste pickers, home-based workers, and domestic workers, we have also been using the medium of design to help make planning and public policy accessible.”

One such example is ModSkool, a low-cost modular construction project completed during the summer of 2017 in less than three weeks. The purpose of the school’s modular approach “was initially designed as a response to repeated forced evictions in Delhi, specifically for the children of farmers along the Yamuna.”

Swati Janu, 2022 Moira Gemmill Prize winner. Janu is a graduate of the School of Planning and Architecture in New Delhi and holds an MSc in Sustainable Urban Development from the University of Oxford.

This year’s judges added: “Janu captures the presence of an absence, redrawing the map to make local lives visible. She is a facilitator, showing that the architect has a place alongside human rights lawyers, activists, and community leaders.”

Janu was one of four shortlisted nominees for the prize. Below is the full list of shortlisted architects.

  • Winner: Swati Janu, founder of Social Design Collaborative, based in India
  • Shortlisted: Ana Baptista, co-founder of Colectivo Mel, based in Portugal
  • Shortlisted: Rania Ghosn, founding partner of Design Earth, based in the U.S.
  • Shortlisted: Sumayya Vally, principal of Counterspace, based in South Africa

To learn more about the W Awards and this year’s winners click here.

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