Eulie Chowdhury: Woman, architect, pioneer

Eulie Chowdhury began her career at a time when India was a vastly different universe. After over two centuries of British rule, the newborn nation was just finding its footing as an independent country. It was a time when few women were allowed to step out of their homes, let alone work. In 1947, the year India gained its independence, Chowdhury earned her degree in Architecture from the University of Sydney. She is recognised widely as one of the earliest women architects in South Asia.

Chowdhury is backed by a commendable resume. A diplomat’s daughter, she also studied in Japan and the US. A highlight of her professional career is her close association with the Swiss-French maverick architect, Le Corbusier. She was part of the close-knit team of architects and planners that included Le Corbusier’s cousin Pierre Jeanneret, who set to work to bring to life Jawaharlal Nehru’s vision of India’s first planned modern city, Chandigarh. These were exciting times, the architects had a dream job and the luxury of working on an unimaginable scale. As a woman, Chowdhury had an unprecedented opportunity. She was involved in both planning the city as well as designing buildings. She is responsible for the design of the Home Science College, the Women’s Polytechnic and housing for ministers in Chandigarh.

She was involved in the plan for Chandigarh between 1951 to 1963 as well as between 1968 to 70. She has also held important official stints which included assignments such as being the Director of the School of Architecture of Delhi, (1963-65), working as the Chief Architect of Haryana (1970), the Chief Architect of Chandigarh (1971-1976) and as the Chief Architect of Punjab State (1976–81).

Eulie Chowdhury’s work spans across general architecture, landscape architecture, design, and education. Along with Pierre Jeanneret, she is credited to have designed the notable ‘Chandigarh Chair’ as well as most of the furniture in the buildings of the Capitol Complex and Gandhi Bhavan Library in Panjab University.

Fluent in French, the architect took on an added role as the translator for Le Corbusier. She also translated Le Corbusier’s book, Three Human Establishments, from French to English. She also authored a book of memories of Le Corbusier, called Those Were The Days. She later established the Alliance Française de Chandigarh in 1983. Chowdhury throughout her career contributed writings to journals and newspapers.

Read more about other pioneering architects on our blog.

Elizabeth Raj | Blogger

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