“Being the first girl, dressed in simple skirt and blouse, she caused quite a flutter in the all-male bastion, even as she showed great talent in design.”
– Madhavi Desai, Women architects and modernism in India,
on Mistri’s enrolment in J.J. School of Art’s architectural department.
“Think of the great opportunities then that a lady architect, trained to build and to beautify, has in shaping the destinies of great cities. And this beauty, in cement and stone and steel, is more lasting than the thin veneer of charm that some beauty parlours specialise in giving to fair and frail complexions.”
–P.P. Kapadia’s Presidential address,
July 1937 Journal of the IIA, on the ‘First lady architect’ [Perin]
“One of the most significant contributions of Mistri as part of the IIA was being a member of the ‘Entertainment Committee’ which organized the pivotal 1937 Ideal Home Exhibition held in Bombay. Termed as a ‘one of a kind exhibition’ in India back then, it has been recognized over the years as an influential event in the discourse of modern Indian architectural history.”
Mentions of her activities as a member of the IIA in their journals serve as a source of documentation of her time there. One of the most significant contributions of Mistri as part of the IIA was being a member of the ‘Entertainment Committee’ which organized the pivotal 1937 Ideal Home Exhibition held in Bombay. Termed as a ‘one of a kind exhibition’ in India back then, it has been recognized over the years as an influential event in the discourse of modern Indian architectural history. It heralded a new era that contributed to the rise of apartment living and showcased to the public the premise of an ‘ideal home’ and the various amenities offered by modernity. Pictured below is Perin Mistri, seated with the rest of the members of the organising committee which consisted of prominent (male) architects of India at that time. The committee included luminaries like Yahya C. Merchant, several presidents of the IIA like the thrice-elected P. P. Kapadia, J. B. Aga, and S. H. Parelkar among others who contributed immensely to the growing landscape of modern architecture via numerous building designs, articles on town planning and civic design, advocacy of architectural education and public awareness through talks and exhibitions, participation in municipal committees etc.
“Batley’s pedagogy prepared Perin Mistri for practice in her father’s office. Both Batley and her father designed in the Art Deco style as a bridge between Indian tradition and European modernism.”
– Mary Woods, Women Architects in India: Histories of Practice in Mumbai and Delhi
Her family and the Press described her as a charismatic, focussed and larger-than-life individual with a ‘hands-on’ attitude who preferred to do the work herself; yet she was also understated and modest at the same time. Her nature was personified in her works, as Tina Sutaria recounts –
“Her style was rather distinct from that of her father’s and brother Minoo. It was more simplistic with cleaner lines and less ornate. In fact, it personified her no nonsense, no frills thinking. Her buildings, very much like her, seemed to say, “Let’s get on with it”. They were functional, practical, easy to maintain and still spoke loudly of character.”
“She was unrelenting in her demands professionally and was a hard task master. However, there was an artistic and very feminine side to her.”
– Tina Sutaria on her aunt Perin’s disposition
Theertha Gangadharan for Art Deco Mumbai
Theertha is a researcher with a Master’s degree in History from the University of Mumbai. Her main research interests include the making of modern Bombay and its art, architectural and natural history.