Sheila Sri Prakash (6 July 1955, Bhopal, India) is an architect and urban designer of Indian origin. She founded Shilpa Architects in Chennai, India in 1979 and was the first woman in India to have started and operated her own architectural firm. She has designed over 1200 completed architectural projects during her career in the last 35 years. She is a "pioneer" in architecture and "thought leader" for her work in Reciprocity or Holistic Sustainability. She was the first Indian Architect to serve on the World Economic Forum's 2011 Global Agenda Council on Design Innovation, a 16-member team of international experts in Design and Innovation, to formulate ways that improve the state of the world. She served on the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on the role of arts in society, in recognition of her signature works of Visionary architecture that feature art, culture and heritage. She is cited as a Starchitect for her iconic buildings and the canonical status of the architectural theories surrounding Reciprocity in Design. During the 2014 World Dance Day Celebration at the Tanjavur Brihadeeswarar Temple (UNESCO world heritage monument), which she has been restoring upon commission from the Archaeological Survey of India, she was the Guest of Honor at an event presided by Padma Subrahmanyam and the Prince of Tanjavur - Sri Babaji Rajah Bhonsle Chattrapathy and was introduced as a "living legend in contemporary architecture". She has also been described as "one of the most versatile designers" of the modern era for her repertoire of award winning projects around the world. Her work ranges from the low-cost Reciprocal House for the socio-economically underprivileged that she designed on invitation from the World Bank in 1987: The Year of Shelter for the Shelterless, to pioneering energy efficient commercial buildings, custom bungalows, residential communities, integrated townships, industrial facilities, Art museums, sports stadiums, centers of education, public infrastructure and luxury hotels. She was named to the "Top 100" most influential architects in the world by it:Il Giornale dell'Architettura., She was named to the 50 most influential names in Architecture and Design in 2015 by Architectural Digest and listed among a category of "Reinventors" for having "built a formidable legacy" and an "inspirational practice that designs societies and not merely buildings or cities". As India’s foremost award-winning architect on the global stage, Sheila Sri Prakash is acknowledged as an international thought leader and as an innovative architect.
She was regarded as a child prodigy for her talent for the Arts from a very young age. She started learning Bharatanatyam when she was four years old and gave her first on-stage Arangetram performance when she was six years of age. She developed in to a critically acclaimed performing artist and had a prolific career in the Performing Arts between 1961 and 1984. Her versatile talent for the Arts range from Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Veenai, Classical Indian Music, Painting and Sculpting. Sheila Sri Prakash was born in Bhopal, India on 6 July 1955 to Lt. Col. G.K.S. Pathy, who was an officer in the Indian Army and S. Thangamma. She attended the Rosary Matriculation School in Chennai and attained a pre-university degree from Stella Maris College, Chennai. She enrolled in the Bachelors in Architecture from the Anna University School of Architecture and Planning in 1973, at a time when there was a strong bias against women entering the field. As an only child, she was encouraged to train in Classical Indian Dance, Music and the Arts from a very young age and started learning Bharatanatyam when she was just four years old. Sheila demonstrated an exemplary talent as a Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi dancer, while she also had an extraordinary gift for the Veenai musical instrument. Besides music and dance, she excelled at painting and sculpting. She performed her Bharatanatyam Arangetram to critical acclaim at the age of Six in Mumbai, under the training of Sri Kalyanasundaram Pillai, Govindaraya Pillai and Mahalingam Pillai. Padma Bhushan Dhanvanthi Rama Rau who presided over her Arangetram, was the first person to call her a child prodigy for her extraordinary talents. Over a period of nearly two decades as a performing artist, Sheila gave several notable performances as a dancer of Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi. Her family moved to Chennai to give her greater opportunities in the Classical Arts and to be trained in Bharatanatyam by Sri Dandayudha Pani Pillai. At the age of eight she was recognized for her role as Krishna in Padma Bhushan Kumari Kamala's dance drama, "Nauka Charitram". Sheila played St. Thomas along with Padma Shri Padma Subrahmanyam in the dance drama "Thotta Nenjam." She was a disciple of the famous kuchipudi maestro, Padma Bhushan Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam and has the distinction of having been the protagonist in several of his dance dramas. Her performances with his leading disciples like Padma Shri Hema Malini, Padma Shri Shobha Naidu, Lakshmi Viswanathan and Rathnapapa in Krishna Parijatham won accolades. She performed the lead role of Shakuntala with Manju Bhargavi in the dance drama Shakunthalam, which was an adaptation of the story in Mahabarata and dramatized by Kalidasa. As a Veenai artist, she has the distinction of playing, composing and recording Radha Madhavam and Sivaleela Vilasam with the world-renowned Veenai musician – Chitti Babu. She is noted for using local arts, culture and heritage as a feature of architectural design. She is the foremost contemporary Indian architect to use Indian art and culture as an integral driver of design, to achieve Reciprocity or Holistic Sustainability. She continues to be an active patron of the Arts.