Balkrishna Doshi, a 90-year old Indian architect, has won the 2018 Pritzker Prize, the highest honor in architecture. That makes Doshi the first Indian to receive the award. Throughout his lengthy career, he has built more than 100 buildings, though never flashy or following trends. Over time, splendor may fade and an update style can become a thing of the past. What lasts for a long time is high-quality and authentic architecture that embodies sustainability in terms of local society, its environment, and economy. His buildings, which accompany great insight into India’s history, culture, and traditions, have marked a milestone in Indian architecture. Let’s find out more about Balkrishna Doshi and his inspiring architecture.
Pritzker Architecture Prize
The international prize, which is awarded annually to architect(s), was established by the Pritzker family through their Hyatt Foundation in 1979. The ceremony of conferring the award is usually held in May at architecturally significant sites around the world. Also known as the Nobel Prize for architecture, the award honors a living architect(s) whose works demonstrate talent, vision, and significant contributions to humanity and the environment through the art of architecture. When looking at recent laureates, there is a clear tendency to appreciate the public nature of architecture in a local context. Last year, the prize was delivered to a Spanish architect trio (Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem, and Ramon Vialta), who put their efforts to improve the local environment in Catalonia for the past 30 years. As such, the Pritzker Architecture Prize aims to reward recognition of not only the architects’ individual works, but also their careers that have brought positive changes to the society.
A Brief Biography of Balkrishna Doshi
Born in Pune, India, Balkrishna Doshi shipped off to London, dreaming of joining the Royal Institute of British Architects. Later moving to Paris, he got to work under Le Corbusier, one of the masters of architecture in the 20th century. He returned to India in 1954 to take part in Le Corbusier’s projects in Chandigarh and Ahmedabad, as a response to the responsibility of rebuilding his native country. Thereafter, he established the Vastushilpa Foundation to evolve indigenous design and building standards appropriate to the environment in India. His wide range of completed buildings include institutions, housing projects, galleries, and mixed-use complexes. Also, a Founder of the School of Architecture and Planning, renamed as CEPT University, he worked as an educator, lecturing at institutions worldwide. Throughout his life, Doshi has been not only an architect for India, but also an excellent urban planner and an active educator. Recognized both nationally and internationally, he won many awards, including the 2018 Pritzker Prize.
Representative Works of Balkrishna Doshi
Aranya Low Cost Housing
Aranya Low Cost Housing, built in Indore, accommodates over 80,000 individuals through an intricate system of houses, courtyards and pathways. Residences range from one-room units to spacious homes, putting together low and middle-income residents. There are vast corridors that simultaneously link indoors with outdoors, allowing houses to be closely connected to each other. It is praised for not only solving national problems of India suffering from high poverty rates and the world’s second largest population, but also enabling an integration of mixed income groups. The housing also takes into consideration environmental aspects such as wind power and solar orientation. For instance, it provides a variety of spaces protected from the blazing sun while allowing natural ventilation. Described as environmentally friendly, creative, and efficient, Aranya Low Cost Housing embodies adaptable living conditions in Indian society and greatly enhanced the quality of lives for the people.
One of the notable personal endeavors Doshi himself recalls is Sangath Studio, which is his own studio. It highlights the outstanding qualities of Doshi’s approach to architecture. From the Sanskrit word, “Sangath” meaning “to accompany or to move together,” it is not only magnificent in appearance, but also cleverly reflects the Indian climate, culture, and lifestyle. Structured as a semi-underground building, it totally integrates with the natural characteristics of the site. Other features include the easy flow of terraces, little ponds, grassy areas and its distinguished curved vaults. On top of that, more than 60 percent of the building materials were produced locally. Even details like the mosaic tiles were also made by the touch of local craftsmen. Sangath Studio has become an ideal sanctuary of culture, art and sustainability that represents India far better than any other architecture.
Other Works: Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore / Kamala House / Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology / Life Insurance Corporation Housing / Premabhai Hall
Balkrishna Doshi’s life and his architecture consistently demonstrate the role of a good architect and the value of taking responsibility to improve one’s community through contriving sustainable architecture. In addition, he has shown that urban planning and housing projects should take into account climate and site along with a deep appreciation of the cultural and social contexts. Noting his tireless contribution to India, not to mention his numerous architectural works, his active role as an urban planner, and an educator, there would be no denying that Balkrishna Doshi truly deserves the 2018 Pritzker Prize.
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