PreviousNext

Featured Member: Kalavati Somvanshi Elevated to AIA College of Fellows

Featured Member by • 06/14

Kalavati Somvanshi, FAIA, RA, Principal, SOMVANSHI/2, is a leader who leverages foresight and experience to create learning opportunities for fellow architects, consultants and subcontractors. Her efforts enhance design excellence and technical expertise for teams facilitating the practice of architecture. Somvanshi’s 47 years of experience have produced a methodology-management style that seeks to compel others to reach their full potential—and to strive for a high degree of consensus through all project phases. Her enthusiasm, collaborative style, and instrumental training have emboldened many junior colleagues, several of whom have gone on to become partners in firms, all while developing the competency of the firms in which she practiced.

The 2017 Jury of Fellows of the AIA elevated Somvanshi to its prestigious College of Fellows in the second category of Fellowship, which recognizes architects who have “Advanced the science and art of planning and building by advancing the standards of architectural education, training or practice,” according to the organizations’s definition. Now among the AIA membership’s three percent distinguished with Fellowship and honorary Fellowship, Somvanshi was recognized at the New Fellows Reception hosted by AIA New York in March and was honored further at an investiture ceremony at the recent AIA Conference on Architecture 2017 in Orlando.

Q: What is your earliest memory of experiencing architecture?

A: From my early days as a seven-year-old student and later, through high school, I was an artist and photographer, excelled at math and science, and learned the construction process of brick and concrete block walls. In college, I helped some failing students obtain their Bachelor of Architecture degrees by using my class notes and studying with me. While working with at a firm during the first two years, I visited project sites and learned the impact of architecture design on the contractors’ building construction status. Such results ignited my imagination about building design and the impact of the same building construction on the community of users.

In 1977, when I started working with Hardy, Holzman Pfeiffer Associates, on a new corporate campus for Best Products, I learned and saw how design excellence could promote construction status work to build the terra-cotta cornice and base profiles and curved glass-block walls.

Q. What is your proudest achievement as an architect?

A: My finest achievement as an architect is the way in which I have melded a full range of skills in architecture with design excellence, interior design, construction execution, and site supervision. My methodology-management style seeks to compel other architects to reach a high degree of consensus through all project phases. Such enthusiasm and instrumental training embolden many junior colleagues to become partners in firms. I have led the development of some of the most distinctive and award-winning architectural projects in the United States, Canada, and the UK.

I have worked with firms on several “signature” projects, including the Los Angeles Central Library; the Cleveland Library; the Rose Center for Earth and Space at the American Museum of Natural History, and the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, both in New York; Best Products Headquarters, Phase 1, in Richmond, Virginia; and the redevelopment of the Barbican in London.

Q: How have you sought out leadership opportunities?

A: As a junior architect working for over two years in other countries and then with Setter, Leach & Lindstrom Architects, in Minneapolis, I was assigned as a project architect assisting the project manager in first five months. Later, based on my experience while working as a senior associate with the firm Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates, on the award-winning Los Angeles Public Library project, I guided the contractors through their successful production and installation of most of the materials, such as a copper rooftop above the atrium, six-foot diameter terracotta enclosures around the atrium columns, and the renovation of the historical materials in this Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue building. In 1987, with the same firm, I organized the Team Leadership and mentored the staff with Roles and Responsibilities charts, project schedules, and drawing standards.

In 1996, working with Polshek Partnership (now Ennead Architects), I gathered and organized the project to achieve design and various phases: excavation, foundations, curtainwall and the remaining entire building and Rose Center Planetarium installation, all aspects, within four years. Such leadership advanced the firm status and was helpful for their professional practice in the USA.

Q: What are you working on right now, or what is your next big project?

A: As a leader and a Principal at SOMVANSHI/2, I am producing a book that will delineate many skills in the planning process of design, preparation of documents with clients’ expectations, approvals of the projects handled by agencies and site supervision. The book will also focus on how the architect’s work can advance the building process. It is my hope that this methodology-management style will compel other professionals—especially junior colleagues or recent college graduates—to reach a high degree of consensus through all project phases, resulting in future award-winning architectural projects and a successful architecture practice.

 Q: What does being a Fellow mean to you?

A: I believe that all great architecture starts with a conceptual idea of the building in its unadulterated form, and the process of creating the building—from concept through completion—must remain faithful to the design concept as well as adhere to pragmatic building construction restraints and methods.

Fellowship acknowledges one’s effort to succeed, advocate, and formalize the extraordinary results of built projects and develop the competency of the firms. As a Fellow, I am motivated to advance professional practice by helping and consulting with upcoming progressive architects and developing their understanding of the culture as part of their working process. As a result of the fellowship status, first, the book noted above should support consultation towards Professional Architecture Practice.

Editors’ Note: This feature is part of a series celebrating the 18 members of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) New York Chapter that have been elevated to the AIA College of Fellows in 2017, an honor awarded to members who have made significant contributions to both the profession and society. Learn more about Fellowship here. See the previous Featured Member here.

Comments are closed.

As the city densifies there is often not enough room on the sidewalks to accommodate the mountains of bags.
Zero Waste Design Guidelines Launched Policy and Advocacy
Siblings show off their Family Market. Credit: Center for Architecture
Archtober Family Day During Open House New York Learning by Design
Schomburg Center renovation by Marble Fairbanks. Credit: Nicholas Desbiens, Marble Fairbanks
In the News In The News
Photo via NYCgo
Policy Pulse: NYC Agency Heads Discussion Policy and Advocacy
Displacement: Capital, 10.04.2017.
“Displacements: Capital” Investigates the Impact of Foreign Funds on NYC’s Skyline Chapter News
Courtesy of US Department of Defense.
Learn How to Assess Homes after a Disaster Chapter News
Turrett Penthouse Suites at the Beekman Hotel by Gerner Kronick + Valcarcel, Architects (GKV) in collaboration Martin Brudnizki Design Studio. Credit: Simon Lewis.
In the News In The News
Advertise on Dezeen Jobs!
Get 20% off featured ads on Dezeen Jobs Chapter News
Credit: Erik Bardin
“Scaffolding” Kicks off Archtober at the Center for Architecture At the Center for Architecture
“Of, By, and For The People: Grassroots Movements and Policy Transformations.” Credit: Center for Architecture.
Defining Citizen Architect Chapter News
“The Activist, the Architect, the Artist: Case Studies in Civic Engagement,” brought together six practitioners from various professions – architecture, art, landscape architecture, law, and urban design – to explore different forms of civic engagement in communities both large and small. Credit: Center for Architecture.
The Activist, the Architect, the Artist Policy and Advocacy
Kate Slevin (left), Saskia Sassen, Ethan Kent, Vishaan Chakrabarti, AIA, at Public Spaces, Social Movements. Credit: Center for Architecture
Policy Pulse: Imagining the New Civic Commons Policy and Advocacy
Classifieds Classifieds
Temple Israel of the City of New York, New York, NY. White's role: Partner in Charge. Image: PBDW Architects.
Featured Member: Samuel G. White, FAIA, LEED AP Featured Member
56 Leonard Street by Herzog & de Meuron, one of Archtober 2017's Buildings of the Day. Credit: Iwan Baan.
Are You Ready for Archtober? At the Center for Architecture
The Cornell Tech Campus in Roosevelt Island. Credit: Iwan Baan.
In the News In The News
Credit: Center for Architecture
Of, By and For the People Policy and Advocacy
Classifieds Classifieds
Center for Architecture staff rolled up their sleeves to help Win students design and build their own tree house models. Pictured: AIANY/CFA Executive Director Benjamin Prosky, Assoc. AIA; Morgan Watson; and Camila Schaulsohn. Image courtesy of Win.
Engaging the Community through Design Learning Learning by Design
Credit: Center for Architecture
CLP Development Session III: Community Transformations through the Lens of Resiliency Chapter News
Hunter's Point Campus, Queens, NY. Rolland's role: Project Director. Image: David Sundberg/Esto.
Featured Member: Ann Rolland, FAIA, LEED AP Featured Member
Cocktails and Conversation: Peter Gluck and Inga Saffron, 09.08.17. Photo: Daniel Cole.
Peter Gluck and Inga Saffron Appraise the State of Architecture for Cocktails and Conversation Chapter News
Anthology Film Archives expansion by Bone/Levine Architects.
In the News In The News
Head_Image
Archtober is Coming! At the Center for Architecture
Credit: Center for Architecture
AIANY Members: Engage and Recommend Leaders Chapter News
Percy Griffin, AIA, interviewed at the Center for Architecture by Jack Travis at "Legends: 3 Harlem Architects, 4 Decades" in 2016. Credit: Center for Architecture
In Memoriam: Percy Griffin, AIA In Memoriam
Courtesy of AIA Houston.
Help the Architecture Center Houston AIANY - Message From the Executive Director
Image courtesy the NYC Department of Buildings
DOB Proposes Rule for Additional Fees Policy and Advocacy
New Visions for Public Schools by Gruzen Samton LLP. Burke's role: Director of Interiors/Design Director. Photo: Mark Ross.
Featured Member: Mary Burke, FAIA Featured Member
Working together on the grouping exercise. Credit: Center for Architecture
CLP Development Session II: Facilitating Inclusive and Productive Engagement—Strategies and Struggles Chapter News
Woman´s March on NYC, 2017. Credit: Michael Kowalczyk ©/ Flickr.
Public Spaces, Social Movements: How Planning and Design Can Shape Public Discourse Policy and Advocacy
Names in the News In The News
“Kaneji Domoto at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonia,” closing 08.26.17. Credit: Erik Bardin.
On View Exhibitions
Moynihan Train Hall by SOM.  Credit: SOM, image via New York State Governor's Office.
In the News In The News
Sonali from our elementary school Fairytale Architecture program shows off her castle design. Credit: Center for Architecture.
Summer@theCenter Wraps Up Learning by Design
Yale University Sterling Divinity Quadrangle, New Haven, CT. Nieminen's role: Partner in Charge. Image: Cervin Robinson.
Featured Member: Michael Nieminen, FAIA Featured Member
Classifieds Classifieds
2100 Troll is Antarctica’s first megacity, its ringed megastructures each organized around a central green space. 2100: A Dystopian Utopia—The City After Climate Change, by Vanessa Keith/StudioTEKA (New York: Urban Research, 2017). Image: courtesy of Terreform.
Featured Member: Vanessa Keith, AIA Featured Member
Grand Central Terminal in Midtown East. Photo courtesy of Pixabay.
Policy Pulse: City Approves Midtown East Rezoning Policy and Advocacy
Myrtle-Wickoff Station Complex. Dugan's role: Principal in Charge. Image: Vanni Archives.
Featured Member: Jeffrey Dugan, AIA Featured Member
Bronx River House by Kiss + Cathcart Architects.
In the News In The News
Names in the News In The News
2017 AIANY COTE Awards. Deadline: 09.17.17
New Deadlines In The News
"This Future Has a Past," on view through 09.12.17. Credit: Center for Architecture.
On View Exhibitions
Office loft / Maker space Hudson Yards Penn Station
Classifieds Classifieds
OBL/QUE, A Journal on Critical Conversation published by Harvard GSD, is the winner of the  2017 Douglas Haskell Award for Student Journals.
Announcing the 2017 Douglas Haskell Award for Student Journals Recipient At the Center for Architecture
At SpeakUp 2017 in Denver, Colorado.
Policy Pulse: AIA Hosts Annual SpeakUp Event Policy and Advocacy
Community Mural, 116th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenue. Photo: Shilpa Patel.
Challenges of Engaging Locally: Civic Leadership Program Opens Discussion Chapter News
Member Survey: How Are Firms Helping Members Grow Professionally? Chapter News
Design educator Hadley Beacham performs a structural test for a triangulated model. Credit: Center for Architecture
Youth Explore Architecture at K-12 Summer Design Programs Learning by Design