Shimul Javeri Kadri is a woman of our time. As an architect she has achieved many accolades and much success; however, it is her ethos and ethics, those things that she measures architecture and life by, that marks her as singular.

Her practice, SJK Architects, is one of the most renowned in India and, as its founder, she has led a 40-strong team for more than 30 years, building an exemplary client portfolio and creating projects that impact the social and cultural fabric of her country. Shimul’s demeanour is thoughtful and measured, she thinks logically but is influenced by her heart and it is these traits she brings to her practice and that resonate in her architecture.

Head, heart and the big picture: Meet Luminary, Shimul Javeri Kadri
Dasvatara Hotel, photograph by Himaanshu Sheth.

Shimul grew up in a family of professionals, doctors and chartered accountants, and there was an expectation that she too would join one of these professions. However, while technically minded with a well-rounded education, she wanted to explore the artistic side of her nature and resolved to become an architect.

She first studied at the Academy of Architecture in Mumbai, then travelled to the USA to complete a Master’s degree at the University of Michigan. It was here that Shimul set a new direction for her work and moved her focus from architecture to urban planning. She stayed in the USA and worked for a year, then returned to Mumbai in 1989.

Head, heart and the big picture: Meet Luminary, Shimul Javeri Kadri
Hotel in Bodh Gaya, photograph by Niveditaa Gupta.

For Shimul, architecture is about the big picture, not the vignette. Urban planning allowed her to think large-scale and it is this idea that has been a driving force throughout her years of practice. Living and studying abroad also afforded her room to move, to study possibilities and explore ideas.

In 1989, around the world and at home, everything was changing. The Berlin Wall crumbled, India had a new Prime Minister and the country was going through huge shifts. With time to think about her professional life and where to go next, there was only one direction: to establish her own practice. And so, SJK Architects was conceived with her first commission – to design a laboratory.

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Head, heart and the big picture: Meet Luminary, Shimul Javeri Kadri
Museum of Jain Heritage, render by SJK Architects.

Most architects who commence their own practice do so through residential commissions, but not Shimul. From the beginning she set out to design architecture that was worthy of her ‘big picture dream’ and these were primarily institutional and commercial projects. As her client base grew, so did the commissions; one project and client led to another and she began to work, not only in her hometown of Mumbai, but across the Indian continent.

With the Nirvana Films’ Studio, Bengaluru, SJK Architects was recognised at the World Architecture Festival, winning the Small Project of the Year category in 2012. Then there is Synergy Lifestyles in Mumbai, Hotel Bodhgaya in Gaya, Bihar and Jain Heritage Museum at Koba, Gujarat, an ongoing project. Thinking outside the box, understanding people and place, and creating to enhance not only the environment but also social and cultural sustainability – these projects, along with so many more, define SJK Architects’ practice that has received so much recognition.

Head, heart and the big picture: Meet Luminary, Shimul Javeri Kadri
Nirvana Films’ Studio, photograph by Pallon Daruwala.

“Environmental sustainability – there’s not even a question it’s the most important thing that an architect needs to do. But to me, the social sustainability and the cultural sustainability are equally important parameters that we really focus on. I feel like environmental sustainability is the basic hygiene that an architect must maintain and respond to, but for somebody who works in India, it is the cultural sustainability. I believe in a culture’s sense of beauty, as being an extremely important value that one needs to sustain, hold on to and evolve. I also believe in social sustainability. How does one involve people who have skills and use those skills effectively? Each time when intervening in a new city you need to be able to meet the city’s needs and to contribute to that city,” says Shimul.

Over the years she has learned to say ‘no.’ At the very beginning of her career, it would have been the easier route to design residential projects for family and friends; instead, she waited and engaged commissions that would enable her to create that bigger architectural picture she envisaged when studying in the USA. She decided the direction of the practice and hasn’t wavered since.

It is this steely will and determined mindset that has propelled SJK Architects to do what it does best and concurrently pave the way for women to practice. Shimul is a great mentor and supporter of women, understanding the challenges faced by female practitioners. She has carved her pathway in the profession and today there is a road for others to follow. Her practice comprises a majority of women with three partners as of 2022, and five Team Leads – all women.

Head, heart and the big picture: Meet Luminary, Shimul Javeri Kadri
All four Partners at SJK Architects.

In 2024 SJK Architects is defining the role of architecture and that of women practitioners in India through a variety of projects that include masterplans, workplace, hospitality, retail, cultural and institutional, education, industrial, residential and adaptive reuse projects across architecture and interior design.

Shimul Javeri Kadri is an inspiration to us all. She has forged her way in an often patriarchal environment and has reached the zenith of her career. That’s not to say she is now relaxing – with three female partners who explore their talent and showcase the practice, along with an inspired workforce, SJK Architects is stronger than ever.

For Shimul, her practice can be encapsulated by these words: “What we do is craft transformative spaces. And I’d say the craft of building is as important to me as the ultimate environment that we create, and there’s always the hope that the environment will have a sense of peace and beauty that will endure.”

As your buildings are a testament to your foresight and architecture Shimul Javeri Kadri, so too are your thoughts and actions that impact your home country of India but also resonate across our region and the globe.

SJK Architects
sjkarchitects.com

INDE.Awards
indeawards.com

Head, heart and the big picture: Meet Luminary, Shimul Javeri Kadri
Head, heart and the big picture: Meet Luminary, Shimul Javeri Kadri
Museum of Jain Heritage, SJK Architects.
Head, heart and the big picture: Meet Luminary, Shimul Javeri Kadri
Hotel in Bodh Gaya, photograph by Niveditaa Gupta.
Head, heart and the big picture: Meet Luminary, Shimul Javeri Kadri
Nirvana Films’ Studio, photograph by Pallon Daruwala.
Head, heart and the big picture: Meet Luminary, Shimul Javeri Kadri
Synergy Factory.

Vince Frost is another Luminary, presented with Woven Image

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