Five Thoughts on Indian Architecture, Design, and Life: Balkrishna Doshi

Balkrishna Vithaldas Doshi (08/26/1927 – 01/24/2023), chief architect, urban planner, educator, and winner of the 2018 Pritzker Prize and the 2022 RIBA Gold Medal, died at the age of 95 in Ahmedabad. One of the most famous Indian architects who shaped the architecture of the country and its surrounding regions, Doshi was inspired by the work of Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn, “combining innovative modernism with the vernacular.”

Known primarily for his urban planning and social housing projects, and for his academic work as a visiting professor at various universities around the world, Balkrishna Doshi has designed some of the most iconic buildings in India over a 70-year career.

He began studying architecture in Bombay in 1947 when India became an independent nation. But he never completed it, leaving for London: he wanted to prepare for the exam at the Royal Institute of British Architects, RIBA. From a friend, he learned about Le Corbusier’s projects in India and joined his office in Paris in 1951. There he worked on projects for Chandigarh and later on the Mill Owners Association building and the Shodhan house in Ahmedabad. Beginning in 1955, Doshi supervised the construction of Le Corbusier’s projects in Ahmedabad, where he settled and opened his own practice.

In 1961, when Doshi was commissioned to build the new Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad, he offered his job to Louis Kahn and became his assistant architect for the project. A year later, Doshi initiated and founded the School of Architecture, Center for Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT) in Ahmedabad, for which he designed and built a building in 1968 and where he taught until 2008.

“Design is an adaptation to a way of life, merging with it.”

“If you look at the villages and cities that people naturally move through, you realize that there is something unique about the Indian sense of space, the Indian sense of time, shape, color, texture, and even celebration,” he said. The Indian way of life is about invading, overlapping, constantly adding new things, and changing. We are not the ones who design space and think of this space as something sacred, but we think that it is an integral part of us. We are natural, we dress naturally, act naturally, cooperate naturally.”

“And I think that’s what I’m trying to figure out so that we don’t lose the aesthetic sense, but amplify and create a unique aesthetic sense that blends into our lives.”

“I have always emphasized the importance of imagination and imagery because, in my culture and family, stories play an important role in everyday life. Images evoke thoughts. Thoughts bind associations. Associations cause fictional stories. Stories create myths. Myths give rise to new narratives and new realities.”

“Real architecture is life”

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