Derived from the Sanskrit word "Stri" which means "woman", Design Stri is a celebration of South Asian womxn who happen to be in the fields of architecture, planning, and design. By naming our community Design Stri we pay homage to both our feminist and cultural roots: acknowledging the unstoppable force womxn possess, and the unique perspectives South Asians offer to the global architecture and design discussion.
WHAT WE DO
Design Stri is a community that publishes interviews with South Asian womxn designers. We’re a Dezeen meets HONY meets South Asia if you will, though we welcome all readers who are curious about our stories.
We feature one leading designer each month, aiming to cover everything from urban planning to product design, and sustainability research to architecture history. Our goal is to not only celebrate our heritage but also challenge and unlearn what our architecture education and community have gotten wrong.
We are thoughtful in everything we do — from featuring artwork created by South Asian womxn on our Instagram page to getting in-depth, exclusive interviews and reporting responsibly. If you are interested in supporting Design Stri and helping us grow, please consider these options!
HOW WE GOT HERE
It was mid-lock-down during the 2020 pandemic when Design Stri first rolled into Mansi and Anya's WhatsApp chat. Mansi was stuck in Gurugram, India, while Anya was stuck in Livermore, California, both living with their families and somehow making work from home, well... work. These two grad school buddies had declared friendship within the first week of classes, completely aware that they were two of the very few Indian women in their new program. Fast forward a few years, a similar fate ensued their working lives.
South Asians are the fastest-growing demographic in the United States and the world’s largest diaspora but when Anya Sinha grew up in the US, there were barely any Indians in her higher ed programs or faculty. Western education dedicated a generous 1.5 lectures towards South Asia's vast architectural history, and there was nothing about recent South Asian contributions, architects, and certainly nothing about women architects from the region.
Mansi Dhanuka is a native of New Delhi and attended architecture school in both India and the US. She saw a similar fate (or lack of) when searching for women architects from South Asia who were leading in the sustainable architecture industry. She wanted coverage she wasn't seeing. So she and Anya dove into figuring out what it would take to start a new publication with originally reported stories. They called it Design Stri.
Mansi Dhanuka, Co-founder, and New Delhi Director
Mansi is an architect born in New Delhi, India, who grew up in a joint family system. The first individual adventure of her life was moving across the world, to pursue a Masters in Environmental Building Design from UPenn. She became part of Jacobs in Philadelphia, where she worked for about a year and a half and then transferred to the New Delhi office to be closer to home and family. During her B.Arch from USAP, GGSIPU, she interned at Morphogenesis in New Delhi.
Mentors have been a crucial part of her professional life and therefore, she set up the Penn Weitzman Association - India Chapter in July 2019 to do the same for the next generations. She is a LEED AP BD+C and has been promoting high-performance design among many green building communities. Her team’s entry titled ‘What is the impact of insulation design on condensation risk in laboratory building enclosures?’ received an honourable mention in Project STASIO Competition 2019.
Anya Sinha, Co-founder, and San Francisco Director
Anya is an architectural designer born and raised in California. She has moved over a dozen times across the bay area and India; including being home-schooled at her grandparent's place in Bokaro, Jharkhand where she learned to read and write Hindi when she was 5. She later spent 4 years attending high school in New Delhi, after which she received her B.A. at UC Berkeley, Masters of Architecture at UPenn, and studied abroad at the Architectural Association in London.
Anya has worked at WRNS Studio, Kengo Kuma & Associates, and Hart Howerton. Particularly influenced by Japanese design, she has been awarded for her team's graduate project "Residue" which re-imagines a dilapidated train yard in LA as a flourishing play-scape, at the 54th Central Glass International Design competition in Tokyo. A nomadic lifestyle and pondering her Indian-American identity are constants for her. She loves dancing, making art, and learning about places, people, & cultures.