Concerned that the ‘architecture’ he was learning at one of the best schools in the country, way back in the ‘60s, was not sufficiently oriented to the contemporary human settlements challenges, especially concerning the needs of the poor and the marginalized groups, Kirtee Shah dropped out to work with the flood disaster victims in the villages first and subsequently in the urban slums of Gujarat.
The search for ‘content’ and ‘social relevance’ in professional work, the desire to serve the ‘alternative client’, and an attitude to de-learn and re-learn in face of new challenges have shaped Kirtee Shah’s 40+ years’ working life in six parallel and overlapping streams that include (a) architecture practice (b) grass roots work as an NGO (c) policy advocacy (d) disaster reconstruction (e) contribution to institution development, and (f) consultancy.
Besides studies, field projects, organization development and policy related work in rural, urban and tribal housing for the low income and other disadvantaged groups, he has worked extensively on large scale post disaster reconstruction projects in India and abroad.
As a member of the Prime Minister appointed National Commission on Urbanization (NCU) in the mid 80’s, he chaired a Working Group on Urban Poverty in India.
Founder Director of Ahmedabad Study Action Group (ASAG; an NGO he set up with other likeminded colleagues and leads for the past 40 years), he was president of Habitat International Coalition (HIC; a global coalition of civic groups, activists and professionals working on the housing rights and the people centered urban development) for a decade, in the mid ‘90s. He is founder president of India Habitat Forum (INHAF); founder chairman of Home Losers’ Service Association of Ahmedabad (HOLSAA; set up following the earthquake in Gujarat in 2001); president of Banglore based Institute for Cultural Research and Action (ICRA) for the past 25 years; one of the founders of the Ashoka Innovator for the Public, which now has presence in more than 70 countries of the world, and is engaged actively with the institutional development activities of Citynet and Asian Coalition for Housing Rights (ACHR).
He has been on several committees set up by the Planning Commission and the Government of India (on housing, urban development and urban poverty matters), was on the board of directors of Housung and Urban Development Corpration (HUDCO, India’s largest public secotr housing finace compnay ) and has consulted with UN agencies, the World Bank, Cities Development Initiatives for Asia (CDIA) and others.
He is currently advising the GoI on its 50,000 houses project for the war victims in Sri Lanka; is Chairman of the Committee for Rejuvenation and Strengthening of the Building Centres Nework in the country, and a member of the National Task Force on Rural Housing and Habitat set up by the GoI.
He is Chairman and Chief Architect of Ksa Design Planning Services Pvt Ltd., an Ahmedabad based firm of practicing architects, with projects in various parts of the country and outside.