Delia Narayan "Didi" Contractor (née Kinzinger; 1929 – July 5, 2021) was an American architect known for her work on sustainable building in India, using adobe, bamboo and stone for materials. She was a recipient of the Nari Shakti Puraskar, India's highest civilian award for recognising the achievements and contributions of women.
Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.
|Died||July 5, 2021 (aged 91)|
|Education||University of Colorado Boulder & self-taught|
|Known for||Sustainable building in India|
|Parent(s)||Edmund & Alice Fish Kinzinger|
Born Delia Kinzinger in Minneapolis, she was the daughter of expressionist painters Edmund Kinzinger and Alice Fish Kinzinger, both associated with the Bauhaus movement. Her father was German, from Pforzheim, Grand Duchy of Baden. Her mother was American. Her parents married in Germany in 1927, and moved to Minneapolis where her father worked as an exchange teacher. They returned to Germany, but left it for Paris in 1933. They moved to Waco, Texas in 1935, where her father was first assistant professor, later professor and finally head of the Art Department of Baylor University.
She grew up in New Mexico and Texas, and took a year off from school to work in theatre, She was first trained in art by her father and Hans Hofmann in New York, and then studied art at the University of Colorado Boulder, where she met her husband, Indian building contractor Narayan Contractor. They moved to Nashik in the 1950s, and to Mumbai in the 1960s, raising three children. After separating from her husband she moved to the Kangra Valley in India in the 1970s.
Contractor's daughter is author and academic Kirin Narayan. Narayan has written about the Contractor household in Mumbai, in a beachside compound in Juhu which Contractor ran as a combination youth hostel and literary salon, in her memoir My Family and Other Saints. Her son, Devendra Contractor, also became an architect. The children studied in the U.S.
Contractor was self-taught in architecture and was inspired as a child by a talk by Frank Lloyd Wright. She specialised in buildings that fit into, rather than contrast with, the landscape, and are made of natural local materials: mainly mud, bamboo, and stone, with small amounts of deodar wood. They also include frequent use of staircases as a design element. They can be found in the area around Dharamsala, and include over 15 homes and three institutions, including the Nishtha Rural Health, Education and Environment Center in Sidhbari, the Sambhaavnaa Institute of Public Policy and Politics in Palampur, and the Dharmalaya Institute in Bir.
Contractor was the subject of two feature films, Earth Crusader (2016), and Didi Contractor: Marrying the Earth to the Building (2017). She was the 2017 winner of the Women Artists, Architects and Designers (WADe) Asia Life Time Achievement Award.
- Rao, Parikshit (September 13, 2017), "Meet the octogenarian architect who speaks the language of mud and clay", Architectural Digest
- Giaracuni, Steffi (2017), Didi Contractor: Marrying the Earth to the Building
- "Didi Contractor: A Self-Taught Architect Who Builds In Mud, Bamboo & Stone", World Architecture, May 11, 2018
- Farida, Syeda (March 22, 2018), "This Self-Taught Octogenarian Has Been Creating Sustainable Homes for 30 Years!", The Better India
- Varghese, Shiny (January 14, 2018), "Unto the Earth: Didi Contractor's oeuvre is a story of rare beauty", The Indian Express
- "Didi Contractor Receives India's Highest Civilian Honor for Women", Earthville, March 21, 2019
- "Dokumentarfilm / "Earth Crusader" – vom Bauen mit Lehm", bba (in German), July 10, 2017
- "Edmund Daniel Kinzinger Paintings | Vintage Texas Paintings", Charles Morin's Vintage Texas Gallery
- Edmund Daniel Kinzinger (1888–1963) / Paris, Seinebrücke und Häuser, 1913 (in German), Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, 2016
- Patel, Bhaichand (November 10, 2008), "An Old Haunt: A tale of turbulent adolescence and life in a bicultural household, we visit '60s Bombay and a mystic's haven", Outlook
- Zimmerman, Nancy (August 5, 2020), "Architecture for the Senses", Trend
- Varghese, Shiny (July 6, 2021), "Didi Contractor, champion of low-waste buildings, is no more", The Indian Express
- Pandit, Ambika (March 8, 2019), "From masons, barbers to creators of forests and sustainable homes, nari shakti takes charge", Times of India
- Didi Contractor at IMDb
- Silverstone, Marilyn (1960), East-West wedding, Magnum Photography. Silverstone's photo-essay on Didi Contractor, "East-West wife", was published in Coronet magazine, November 1960.
- Narayan, Kirin: My Family & Other Saints (excerpts) press.uchicago.edu
- Singh, Joginder: Didi Contractor / Ideas and Concerns (interview) immaterialonline.com