Anju Malla Pradhan is the President of Society of Nepalese Architects (SONA). Starting her internship with M & S Consultants, Pradhan’s journey towards professional success has been a long one.
Today she is recognised as a school design architect and has several school projects to her credit including the Graded English Medium School in Lalitpur, Himalayan International Model School in Jorpati, Learning Realm International Boarding School in Kalanki, The Little Flower School in Jhapa and Small Heaven School in Chitwan.
In 2010-11, her love for writing pushed her to start a publishing house. With the help of seven architects and one civil engineer, she launched a magazine specialising in art and architecture but which only ran for two years.
With 26 years of work experience, in this issue of B360, the talented architect Anju Malla Pradhan shares five things that have impacted her work and life.
Looking back at my childhood, I consider myself privileged to have had the opportunity to start my education from St Mary’s School. 35 years back going to St Mary’s was a huge privilege. I spent 12 years in a convent right from kindergarten. I then went to Amrit Science College for my high school which used to be one of the top colleges then. I believe the right kind of school and college impact one’s development immensely.
Growing up in a joint family
Parenting has changed over the years, constantly redrawing the picture on what constitutes a ‘good’ upbringing. Well, I grew up in a joint family with about 30-35 people under one roof. It taught me sharing, the value of family, and understanding people which is majorly lacking in a nuclear family. At times I feel sorry for my daughter who has been brought up in a nuclear family. The best part about my family was that the generation before me was highly educated. Some were doctors, engineers while my father was a professor. Growing up amidst such people, I always had one or the other person to guide me.
Civil engineering was my first choice and architecture second; but I believe architecture was my destiny. I got chosen for a college which offered me architecture. Without second thought, I grabbed the opportunity and made my mind to study at Jadavpur University in Kolkata. Though my initial days at college were full of obstacles, I manage to sail my boat. One of the professors used to give lectures in the regional language, Bengali. As I did not understand the language, I requested him to talk in English but the lecturer was adamant. What he said is still fresh in my mind… he said, “If you want to learn here, better learn the language.” Without losing hope, I not only learned to speak Bengali but also write with accuracy within six months. Today I am glad for it because it pushed me out of my comfort zone and made me learn a completely new language fast. Today it’s been 26 years in the field and I enjoy my work.
Returning to Nepal
I graduated in 1993 and returned home with no idea about what to do. I would just roam the streets. The second week back, I was in New Road and met a senior architect there. He immediately asked me to join his office and this is how my working life in the capital started. During those days, maybe we were very few in numbers so it was easy to get a job. I worked there for nine months and somewhere I realised that I wanted to do something bigger. I joined another office, and was soon working with 3-4 consultancies. I worked in government offices as well but I didn’t like the environment much. There was less work and more talk. And when the first National Design Competition was held by the Kathmandu Metropolis, it became the turning point in my life. Fortunately, with just two years of experience, I won the competition. However, the competition was held for the central office building of Kathmandu Metropolis in 1995. It was planned to be built in New Road but till today the plot is empty because of land issues. Nevertheless, the opportunity opened doors to my success. My work was highly appreciated and people started getting to know me. During the peak of my career, I got married and had to take a year break from work. When I was willing to work again, I was glad I didn’t have to start from scratch; people knew me and my work in the industry.
Managing my own company
With the help of my cousins, I formed a new company. I also hired people from my companies I had worked with earlier. But I must agree management was difficult, not as easy as I thought it would be. Management and finance is not my cup of tea, not even today. It is extremely difficult to get payments done on time from your clients. I thought this problem exists only here but lately I realise this problem lies everywhere. After five years of running the office, I decided to stick to freelancing. Today, I am doing a lot of school and residential projects.