Centre for Environmental Planning & Technology 1966–2012 (Multiple Phases) in Ahmedabad, India. "A funnel shaped entrance is designed to direct the breeze through the building." | Photo courtesy of VSF

The Design Philosophy of B.V. Doshi, 2018 Pritzker Prize Laureate

Professor Balkrishna Doshi, of India, has been selected as the 2018 Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate, architecture's highest honor.

  • March 9, 2018

  • Written by Denny Mata

  • Photos courtesy of VSF, and John Paniker via pritzkerprize.com

Professor Balkrishna Doshi, also known as B. V. Doshi, has been an architect, urban planner, and educator for 70 years. Throughout his long career, he has been a proactive advocate of shaping the discourse of architecture in his country, India. Doshi’s architecture explores the relationships between the fundamental needs of human life, connectivity to self and culture, and respect for social traditions, with a response that is grounded in context and exhibiting a localized Modernist approach. It is wholly fitting, therefore, that he was finally awarded architecture’s highest honor, the 2018 Pritzker Architecture Prize. Here’s an insight into the design philosophy of one of India’s most celebrated contemporary architects.

Architecture is ethical and personal

Sangath Architect’s Studio (1980) in Ahmedabad, India. “‘Sangath fuses images and associations of Indian lifestyles. Memories of places visited collide, evoking and connecting forgotten episodes. Sangath is an ongoing school where one learns, unlearns and relearns. It has become a sanctuary of culture, art and sustainability where research, institutional facilities and maximum sustainability are emphasized.’ Sangath with grass steps of the amphitheater, leading to the entrance.” | Photo courtesy of VSF

“My works are an extension of my life, philosophy and dreams trying to create a treasury of the architectural spirit. 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,” says Doshi, “I believe Life celebrates when lifestyle and architecture fuse.'”

Born in Pune, India on August 26, 1927, into a family of furniture makers, it was no wonder Doshi showed an inclination for art and proportion at an early age. He developed this even more with his exposure to architecture by a school teacher. He began his architecture studies in earnest in 1947 at the Sir J.J. School of Architecture Bombay (Mumbai), embarking on a brief stay in London before proceeding to France to work under the legendary Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, more commonly known as Le Corbusier, from 1951-1955.

He then returned home to oversee work on Le Corbusier’s Chandigarh plans and Ahmedabad projects. His next works were with Louis Kahn, who also served as an early adjunct faculty member of the School of Architecture at Ahmedabad (now Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT) which Doshi established in the 1960s. Their most famous collaboration is the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad in 1962.

Amdavad Ni Gufa (1994) in Ahmedabad, India. Amdavad Ni Gufa was designed to demonstrate the collaboration between an artist and architect. An underground gallery housing the works of artist Maqbool Fida Husain, Doshi’s design was inspired by a discussion between the two that occurred thirty years prior to the project. It was about a response to climate, and the benefits of interred spaces. In designing the landscape and entrance, the architect connects the building to the extended world.” | Photo courtesy of VSF

Influenced by masters of 20th century architecture, Le Corbusier, and Louis Khan, Doshi has been able to “interpret architecture and transform it into built works that is ethical and personal. His architecture respects eastern culture while enhancing the quality of living in India, touching lives of every socio-economic class across abroad spectrum of genres since the 1950s,” cites the Pritzker jury.

Architecture is both poetic and functional

Institute of Indology (1962) in Ahmedabad, India. “The architect considered lighting, temperature and humidity levels to preserve the ancient artifacts stored inside. View from the museum court.” | Photo courtesy of VSF

Childhood recollections, from the rhythms of the weather to the ringing of temple bells, inform Doshi’s designs. He describes architecture as an extension of the body, and his ability to attentively address function while regarding climate, landscape, and urbanization is demonstrated through his choice of materials, overlapping spaces, and utilization of natural and harmonizing elements.

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Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore 1977–1992 (Multiple Phases). Bangalore, India. “‘I wanted to develop a system by which the buildings at IIM Bangalore disappear and spaces in between them dominate the experience of the place…I thought the most important things [were] the rasa, which is the subtle experience of the space that makes the space memorable. It extends the associations and enriches imagination.” View towards the library from a semi-open corridor. | Photo courtesy of VSF

Doshi’s architecture is both poetic and functional. The Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore, completed in 1983, is inspired by traditional maze-like Indian cities and temples, organized as interlocking buildings, courts and galleries. It also provides a variety of spaces protected from the hot climate.

The scale of masonry and vast corridors infused with a campus of greenery allow visitors to be simultaneously indoors and outdoors. As people pass through the buildings and spaces, Doshi invites them to experience their surroundings and also suggests the possibility of transformation.

Architecture is a service to humanity

Aranya Low Cost Housing (1989) in Indore, India. “Aranya Low Cost Housing and the relation between streets and entrances.” | Photo courtesy of John Paniker

“Professor Doshi has said that ‘Design converts shelters into homes, housing into communities, and cities into magnets of opportunities,” comments Tom Pritzker, Chairman of Hyatt Foundation, which sponsors the award that is known internationally as architecture’s highest honor. “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. I am honored to present the 40th anniversary of this award to an architect who has contributed more than 60 years of service to us all.”

The architect designed Aranya Low Cost Housing Township in Indore (1989), situated in an 86-hectare site, designed to encourage fluid and adaptable living conditions, mixing different economic classes. It 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, accommodating low and middle-income residents. Overlapping layers and transitional areas encourage fluid and adaptable living conditions, customary in Indian society.

Life Insurance Corporation Housing (1973) in Ahmedabad, India. “To accommodate fluctuating sociocultural needs of Indian families, Doshi reverses the typical order of a multi-residential building, placing the largest residence on the bottom and the smallest on the top, allowing the upper unit to enjoy a terrace, which can also be converted into an additional living space.” | Photo courtesy of VSF

The 2018 Jury Citation states, in part: “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.”

The Jury continues, “Doshi is acutely aware 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.”

Premabhai Hall (1976) in Ahmedabad, India. “‘A good theatre…is the extension of the most active and creative part of a city. It is a place where all artists meet and recreate a new image of life.’ Designed as a public theatre, Premabhai Hall, a largely concrete building, houses an auditorium, vast interior corridors and public gathering spaces. View from Bhadra Square.” | Photo courtesy of VSF

“Every object around us, and nature itself—lights, sky, water and storm—everything is in a symphony,” explains Doshi. “And this symphony is what architecture is all about. My work is the story of my life, continuously evolving, changing and searching…searching to take away the role of architecture, and look only at life.” 

Balkrishna Doshi | Photo courtesy of VSF

Balkrishna Doshi is the 45th Pritzker Prize Laureate, and the first to hail from India. The 2018 Pritzker Architecture Prize ceremony commemorates the 40th anniversary of the accolade, and will take place at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, Canada, this May. The Laureate will present a public lecture, in partnership with the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design at the University of Toronto on May 16, 2018.

Other notable works include academic institution Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT University) (Ahmedabad, 1966-2012); cultural spaces such as Tagore Memorial Hall (Ahmedabad, 1967); housing complex Vidhyadhar Nagar Masterplan and Urban Design (Jaipur, 1984); and private residence Kamala House (Ahmedabad, 1963), among many others.

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