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Balkrishna Doshi, India's leading architect and 2018 Pritzker Prize Laureate, dies aged 95
India Architecture News - Jan 24, 2023 - 16:17 1570 views
The architect was one of World Architecture Community's first Honorary Members since 2007.
Described by Architectural Digest India as "India’s greatest architect", the magazine said "A master wielder of form and light, Doshi has left an indelible legacy."
"A loving husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather, and a true inspiration to the people of this country. His contribution to architecture, art, life, culture and philosophy will be remembered forever."
"He spent his early career working with celebrated architects Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn," wrote the magazine.
One of the spacious, light-flooded corridors at IIM: Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Bangalore, 1977-92. Image © Courtesy of Vastushilpa Foundation, Ahmedabad. Photography © Vinay Panjwani – India
Doshi became the first Indian architect winning the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2018.
Spanning over six decades in his career, Doshi has brought a big influence in shaping the local architecture throughout India and its adjacent regions. His design philosophy referenced to the local values while combining them with modernism in respect to the culture, context, craft ve vernacular.
With over 100 built projects in his portfolio, Doshi's portfolio includes a vast array of projects, ranging from administrative and cultural facilities, housing developments to residential buildings.
Aranya Low Cost Housing Estate in 1989. Image © John Panicker
His notable projects include the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore in 1992, the Life Insurance Corporation Housing Ahmedabad, India, in 1973, the Aranya Social Housing Estate in 1989 - which won the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 1995 - and the Ahmedabad School of Architecture he founded in 1966 (renamed CEPT University in 2002), the underground art space that Doshi created with M.F. Husain: Amdavad Ni Gufa, Ahmedabad in 1994.
Aranya Low Cost Housing in presently accommodates over 80,000 individuals through a system of houses, courtyards and a labyrinth of internal pathways. Over 6,500 residences range from modest one-room units to spacious homes, accommodatinglow and middle-income residents.
Doshi was born in Pune, India on August 26, 1927, into an extended Hindu family who worked in the furniture industry for two generations.
Interior view of the foyer at the Tagore Memorial Hall: Tagore Memorial Hall, Ahmedabad, 1967. Image © Vastushilpa Foundation, Ahmedabad
He began his architecture studies in 1947, in which the year India gained independence, at the Sir J.J. School of Architecture Bombay (Mumbai), the oldest and one of the foremost institutions for architecture in India.
His six-decade-long career was shaped under the influence of master architects Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn.
When he moved to Paris—despite his inability to speak French—he worked under Le Corbusier. After he returned to India in 1954, he started to oversee Le Corbusier’s projects in Chandigarh and Ahmedabad, which include the Mill Owner’s Association Building in Ahmedabad in 1954 and Shodhan House in Ahmedabad in 1956.
Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, India, 1977-1992. Image courtesy of VSF
Beginning in 1962, Doshi also worked with Louis Kahn as an associate to build the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, and they continued to collaborate for over a decade.
He founded his own practice, Vastu Shilpa Consultants in 1956 with two architects. Today Vastushilpa is a multi-disciplinary practice with ﬁve partners spanning three generations and has sixty employees. In 1980, his architecture studio was renamed as Sangath in Ahmedabad.
When he was awarded the 2018 Pritzker Architecture Prize, the prize jury described him as "a significant architectural figure changing the social values and architectural identity in India's built environment by touching upon humans' basic needs and lives of every socio-economic class across a broad spectrum of genres since the 1950s."
"Professor Doshi has said that ‘Design converts shelters into homes, housing into communities, and cities into magnets of opportunities," said Mr. Pritzker.
"The life’s work of Balkrishna Doshi truly underscores the mission of the Prize—demonstrating the art of architecture and an invaluable service to humanity," the Pritzker added.
Amdavad Ni Gufa, Ahmedabad, India, 1994. Image courtesy of VSF
"A unique figure in the panorama of 20th-century architecture"
Martha Thorne, Former Executive director at Pritzker Architecture Prize, has paid a tribute to the great architect on her Facebook page and wrote: "Balkrishna Doshi is clearly a unique figure in the panorama of 20th-century architecture. He was an architect who influenced many people in different ways: from his works, writings, teachings, as a mentor and an exemplary role model."
"He worked at different scales from town planning to individual buildings. The incorporation of traditional crafts adapted to new spaces and new uses are just two examples of the completeness of Doshi in his approach to architecture."
"He will be sadly missed, but will forever live through the numerous lives he touched. He set the bar high for himself and showed us all great the power of the heart, as it guides the mind and hands," she wrote.
School of Planning, Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology Ahmedabad, India, 1970. Image courtesy of VSF
Doshi also established Vastushilpa Foundation for Studies and Research in Environmental Design in 1978 to "evolve indigenous design and planning standards for built environments appropriate to the socio-cultural and environmental milieu of India."
Today, the foundation serves as an connection medium between academics and professional consultants.
In 2018, Doshi was named as the 2018 Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate. In 2022, he was awarded the 2022 RIBA Royal Gold Medal. He was also awarded the Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters of France in 2011, Global Award for Lifetime Achievement for Sustainable Architecture, Institut Francais d’Architecture, Paris in 2007 and Prime Minister’s National Award for Excellence in Urban Planning and Design, India in 2000.
Top image: Balkrishna Doshi, courtesy of VSF