Gira Sarabhai, an architect, designer, curator and historian who helped set up a few of the most essential design establishments in postcolonial India, giving her a hand in shaping generations of designers, artists and craftspeople, died on July 15 at her dwelling in Ahmedabad, within the western Indian state of Gujarat. She was 97.
Her loss of life was confirmed by her nephew Suhrid Sarabhai.
As a younger lady, Ms. Sarabhai was buddies with a who’s who of the world’s prime modernist designers and designers — Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, Louis Kahn, B.V. Doshi, Buckminster Fuller, Charles and Ray Eames, Isamu Noguchi and Alexander Calder.
She and her brother Gautam Sarabhai educated underneath Wright at Taliesin, his property in Wisconsin, and have been a part of the staff that labored on Wright’s spiral design for the Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan. (While in New York, they struck up a friendship with the composer John Cage, who tutored their musician sister, Gita.)
Ms. Sarabhai returned along with her brother to a newly unbiased India within the late Forties and located that the nation wanted designers who might bridge the normal with modernity. She plunged into quite a few initiatives, designing modernist residential buildings and amassing Indian textiles.
Along along with her brother Gautam, she based the Calico Museum of Textiles in 1949, which is extensively thought to be housing the most effective assortment of Indian textiles on this planet. Its catalogs on Indian prints and materials, all curated by Ms. Sarabhai, have change into a useful useful resource for researchers and designers.
“All of us in the design space in contemporary India owe Gira Sarabhai a huge debt of gratitude for her selfless, perfectionist, single-minded work,” the craft activist Laila Tyabji wrote in a tribute in Architectural Digest.
Ms. Sarabhai additionally designed the geodesic Calico Dome, which homes the shop and showroom for Calico Mills, a textile mill owned by her household.
In 1958, Charles and Ray Eames wrote a report commissioned by the Indian authorities recommending design coaching packages for Indians. Ms. Sarabhai labored with the federal government and the Ford Foundation to construct an establishment based mostly on the Bauhaus modernist design motion, and in 1961 she and her brother opened the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad.
Ms. Sarabhai was instrumental in designing the constructing and its campus, organising its libraries and handpicking school members. The institute turned immensely influential in India as a design faculty, and she or he remained carefully concerned with it till the early Seventies.
Gira Sarabhai was born in Ahmedabad on Dec. 11, 1923, the youngest of eight youngsters of Sarala Devi and Ambalal Sarabhai, a outstanding industrialist who made his fortune within the textile mills of Gujarat.
The Sarabhais have been progressive followers of Mahatma Gandhi and early supporters of the Indian independence motion, and so they opened their dwelling to many luminaries of the twentieth century, together with the poet, playwright and composer Rabindranath Tagore, the politically outstanding Nehru household, the socialist Annie Besant, the author E.M. Forster, the photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson and the educator Maria Montessori.
These relationships and the household’s patronage helped rework Ahmedabad into a middle for training, arts and design. Ms. Sarabhai’s older brother Vikram was a physicist and astronomer who based India’s house program.
Gira and her siblings have been home-schooled, however whereas a number of of them attended college, Gira had no formal training. In her late teenagers, she packed a bag of books and traveled to the Kashmir area, the place she lived in a houseboat and taught herself historical past. She developed an curiosity in structure and wrote to Wright, who agreed to coach her.
“She was a firm believer in learning by apprenticeship with a master, not by learning in a conventional university with classrooms,” her nephew Suhrid mentioned by electronic mail. That conviction lay behind her and her brother Gautam’s resolution to emphasise studying by doing over textbook studies on the National Institute of Design.
Over her profession Ms. Sarabhai labored with the assorted divisions of the Sarabhai conglomerate, together with its promoting company, Shilpi Advertising, which had huge affect in India through the Sixties and ’70s.
In the final a long time of her life she ran the Sarabhai Foundation galleries in addition to the Calico Textile Museum.
An intensely non-public particular person, Ms. Sarabhai prevented the limelight and refused to doc her personal life’s work, according to the photographer and filmmaker Navroze Contractor, a detailed buddy.
She by no means married and lived most of her life on her household’s property, The Retreat. In addition to Suhrid Sarabhai, she is survived by two different nephews and 4 nieces.