Gandhian architect ‘Didi Contractor’ no more: Was born in America, but made India work land, was awarded the highest Nari Shakti award

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Noted Gandhian architect Didi Contractor (Delia Kizinger) has passed away. He was born in 1929 in America. While living in Sidhbari village of Dharamsala, Didi promoted the art of building buildings with local materials in such a way that people came from far and wide to learn their skills. She was awarded the highest Nari Shakti Puraskar given to women.

His architecture was more like a political statement, in which the building process is combined with nature. Delia Didi Contractor was an artist, designer and also a self-learned architect who died last night. His age was 91 years. For the last 3 decades, she was living in Siddhbari, Kangra Valley, Himachal Pradesh and there she worked to promote sustainable living.

Didi has the credit of building 15 houses and several low waste public projects. Didi’s father was German and mother was American. Didi is married to a Gujarati (Narayan Contractor). Didi came to Himachal and made a map of her mud house herself. Seeing this, many people also got the map of their house made by Didi. After this Didi’s houses started becoming famous and they became famous.

Now many architectural universities near Didi send their students to learn the work. But Diddy didn’t have an architectural degree of her own. Didi used to use only local goods in her house. Clay, bamboo, stone and wood found in the local area have been used in their houses.

Awarded with Nari Shakti Puraskar in 2019

Didi Contractor’s idea was the subject of two feature films, Earth Crusader (2016) and Didi Contractor: Marrying the Earth to the Building (2017). She was also the 2017 winner of the Asia Life Time Achievement Award given to women artists, architects and designers. In 2019, the President of India honored her with the Nari Shakti Puraskar, India’s highest civilian award, for her achievements and contributions to women.

Raised in Germany and the United States

Sister Contractor Delia was the only child of a German father and an American mother. In 1951 she married Narayan Ramji Contractor and after that she came to India for the first time. Her husband’s friend was Maharana Bhagwat Singh Mewar, the Maharana of Udaipur, who invited him to decorate the Lake Palace in Udaipur in 1961.

Social worker Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay was impressed

Didi Contractor had an interaction with social worker Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, after which she started trying to learn and understand traditional Indian crafts. She was greatly influenced by the art and indigenous ideas of the famous philosopher Ananda Kumaraswamy. With the help of these people, he made a vision of what India has and what is going to end very quickly.

There was a trend towards rural life

Didi Contractor was more inclined towards rural life. So he turned to Andretta of Kangra in the 70s. Where he thoroughly observed the methods of local construction such as drying leaves in the sun, the method of bamboo and slate. After this he started making solar cookers with the help of glass and clay. Lived her whole life in a sustainable way and always inspired people to do the same.

First project started in 1995

Didi has recycled everything in her house in her life, be it food or clothes. In the first project he met in 1995, he started his first project to build a community clinic, in which he used traditional methods with local materials. Similarly, he also did many experiments, such as using rice husks by insulating them in clay plaster. With this experiment, he had proved that this method is earthquake resistant. She was also awarded the Nari Shakti Puraskar in the year 2019 for promoting local skills and inventing new technologies.


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