Didi Contractor’s Nurturing Presence
Rafiq Kidwai
A CALL TO RETURN: A JOURNEY WITH DIDI CONTRACTOR by Compiled and edited by Lakshmi Swaminathan. Foreword by Satish Kumar Banyan Tree, 2024, 168 pp., INR 350.00
July 2024, volume 48, No 7

In the early 1990s, a sixty-year-old woman started building unconventional houses in Kangra, Himachal Pradesh. Born an American but spiritually inclined towards India, she conformed to no known stereotypes. Didi Contractor lived life on her terms and by her convictions. An idealist, a self-taught architect, passionate activist of (and at one with) Mother Nature, hers was a life well spent—a useful life.

Delia Kinzinger was born in 1929, to a family ‘of professional Expressionist painters: modern artists deeply concerned as I still am, with the potential role of the visual arts in forming social attitudes … My parents wheeled me through museums, exhibitions and monuments, quaint villages and picturesque landscapes, where I played while they sketched.’ In the late 1930s, foreseeing the coming World War, the family fled from Munich to Baylor University in Waco, Texas, America. There, an inspirational lecture by Frank Lloyd Wright introduced her to architectural drawings and ‘during my remaining school years I doodled plans for homes where I could live out imagined futures. My parents bought a thick-walled 200-year-old adobe house. I helped them take measurements and draw up plans for remodeling it to our needs. We all helped with the construction, working alongside hired local artisans.’

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