Indian architect, urban planner and professor Balkrishna Doshi has been selected as the 2018 Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate. Known for his pioneering work in low-cost housing, Doshi has a 70 years long carrier which includes also collaborations with Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn. From here, he managed to interpret their work, tune it with Eastern culture but also to transform it in order to improve living standards in Indian society.
“My works are an extension of my life, philosophy and dreams trying to create treasury of the architectural spirit.” Commented Balkrishna Doshi. “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.”
After graduating in Mumbai, Balkrishna Doshi moved to Europe where he started as an apprentice at Le Corbusier’s Paris office. For work, he traveled back to India, in Amenhabad, where he eventually opened his own studio and completed some of his most notable works – starting from the Ahmedabad School of Architecture, now CEPT University, which he both found and planned.
His studio, Sangath in Ahmedabad, 1980, is a clear example of his approach merging Indian culture and Modernism. The building features communal spaces, a garden and outdoor amphitheater highlighting Doshi’s regard for collaboration and social responsibility. Vaulted roofs, porcelain mosaic tile coverings, grassy areas, and sunken spaces mitigate extreme heat.
Balkrishna Doshi’s most prominent project is the Aranya Low Cost Housing in the village of Indore. The project 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.
The Institute of Indology was designed to house ancient manuscripts, a research center and eventually, a museum. “All the elements one finds in Indian buildings are present [here]. I had studied a Jain upashraya, a home for monks, before I designed it. I had also met several Jain saints in the city to understand the traditional architecture for this building type.” Here, the building’s two stories, high plinth, and full length veranda are all components of traditional Indian buildings.
“[O]ne of my most favourite housing projects is the one I designed for Life Insurance Corporation in Ahmedabad… Here I knew that the houses would be occupied by several generations of the same family, that they would identify with it, that there will be a strong sense of belonging and that their needs will change, and they may modify parts of it.”
In Ahmedabad, BV Doshi completed also Amdavad Ni Gufa, a cave-like, ferro-cement art gallery, positioned underground and featuring works of Maqbool Fida Husain. The mosaic tile detail is echoed in the tortoise-shell inspired roof. Here, silhouettes of metal creatures seem to play hide and seek behind the columns.
The Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore was inspired by traditional maze-like Indian cities and temples, and is organized as interlocking buildings, courts and galleries. It also provides a variety of spaces protected from the hot climate, and infuses greenery through semi-open corridors and gardens.
All images: courtesy of the 2018 Pritzker Architecture Prize.
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