If there were a Nobel prize for architects, the Pritzker prize would be it. Known as the highest honour in the field of architecture, this award has been bestowed in the past by stalwarts and world-renowned architects like Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry, IM Pei, and Shigeru Ban.
But one man has broken the mould to place India on the global map by becoming the first Indian architect to win this prestigious honour.
Meet 90-year-old iconic architect Balkrishna Doshi or as he is known B V Doshi who is being conferred the Pritzker Architecture Prize.
Known for designing some of the most known buildings and institutions in the country, Doshi’s life has been nothing short of inspirational.
BV Doshi was born in a family of furniture makers on August 26, 1927, in Pune. In the past, he’s quoted how his early works were inspired by his own grandfather’s home which accommodated a big joint family of three uncles and their families.
Speaking to the National Public Radio, he said, “I always sensed the space as alive. Space and light and the kind of movement that gets into space for me are very, very significant. That’s what generates a dialogue. That’s what generates activities. And that’s where you begin to become part of life. My architecture philosophy is: Architecture is a backdrop for life.”
Doshi is an alumnus of the known JJ School of Architecture in Mumbai. He is one of the very few living architects who had the chance to work with the legendary Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier in Paris known as the master of modernism
He travelled to London and Paris to be an apprentice under Le Corbusier in 1950 and returned to his country to supervise the architect’s projects. He regards Corbusier his guru. In response to his Pritzker prize he said, “I owe this prestigious prize to my guru, Le Corbusier. His teachings led me to question identity and compelled me to discover new regionally adopted contemporary expression for a sustainable holistic habitat.”
It was in 1955 that Doshi established his studio Vastu-Shilpa (environmental design) and worked with the likes of Louis Kahn and Anant Raje in designing the iconic campus of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.
It isn’t the only institute he has designed. Needless to say, the architect’s memorable works include IIM Bangalore, IIM Lucknow, the National Institute of Fashion Technology, Tagore Memorial Hall, the Institute of Indology in Ahmedabad, the 1996 Aga Khan award-winning Aranya Low Cost Housing (Indore), ATIRA low-cost housing (Ahmedabad), ECIL township (Hyderabad), IFFCO Township (Kalol), the Jnana-Pravah Centre for Cultural Studies (Varanasi), the Sawai Gandharva (Pune), and many others.
The Pritzker prize jury’s announcement summarised the wonders of Doshi’s work beautifully. It said, “Over the years, Balkrishna Doshi has always created an architecture that is serious, never flashy or a follower of trends. With a deep sense of responsibility and a desire to contribute to his country and its people through high quality, authentic architecture, he has created projects for public administrations and utilities, educational and cultural institutions, and residences for private clients, among others.”
“Doshi’s architecture explores the relationships between fundamental needs of human life, connectivity to self and culture, and understanding of social traditions, within the context of a place and its environment, and through a response to Modernism.”
Doshi described architecture as an extension of the body, and his ability to attentively address function while incorporating climate, landscape, and urbanisation is demonstrated through his choice of materials, overlapping spaces, and utilisation of natural and harmonising elements.
Doshi’s works were also lauded for keeping acute awareness of the context in which his buildings are located.
“His solutions take into account the social, environmental and economic dimensions, and therefore his architecture is totally engaged with sustainability,” it said.
We salute the iconic architect for making India proud globally! He will be travelling to Toronto in May to receive the Prize and will also deliver a public lecture.