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HIGHLIGHT: BALKRISHNA DOSHI

HIGHLIGHT: BALKRISHNA DOSHI

Architect, urban planner, and educator for the past 70 years, Balkrishna Doshi has been instrumental in shaping the discourse of architecture throughout India and internationally. Influenced by masters of 20th-century architecture, Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, known as Le Corbusier, and Louis Kahn, Doshi has been able to interpret architecture and transform it into built works that respect eastern culture while enhancing the quality of living in India. His ethical and personal approach to architecture has touched lives of every socio-economic class across a broad spectrum of genres since the 1950s.

Balkrishna Doshi was born in Pune, India on August 26, 1927, into an extended Hindu family that had been involved in the furniture industry for two generations. Displaying an aptitude for art and an understanding of proportion at a young age, he was exposed to architecture by a school teacher. He began his architecture studies in 1947, the year India gained independence, at the Sir J.J. School of Architecture Bombay (Mumbai), the oldest and one of the foremost institutions for architecture in India.

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. Childhood recollections, from the rhythms of the weather to the ringing of temple bells, inform his 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.

Vidhyadhar Nagar Masterplan
Vidhyadhar Nagar Masterplan

Doshi’s ambition and initiative guided many pivotal moments in his life—from boarding a ship from India to London, where he dreamed of joining the Royal Institute of British Architects; and moving to Paris—despite his inability to speak French—to work under Le Corbusier; to responding to the responsibility and opportunity of rebuilding his native country.

He returned to India in 1954 to oversee Le Corbusier’s projects in Chandigarh and Ahmedabad, which include the Mill Owner’s Association Building (Ahmedabad, 1954) and Shodhan House (Ahmedabad, 1956), among others. Beginning in 1962, Doshi also worked with Louis Kahn as an associate to build the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, and they continued to collaborate for over a decade.

Mill Owners' Association Building - Le Corbusier
Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad - Louis Kahn & Balkrishna Doshi

In 1956, Doshi hired two architects and founded his own practice, Vastushilpa, which has since been renamed Vastushilpa Consultants and grown to employ five partners and sixty employees and has completed more than 100 projects since its inception. Infused with lessons from Western architects before him, he forged his artistic vision with a deep reverence for life, Eastern culture, and forces of nature to create an architecture that was personal, laced with sights, sounds, and memories from his past. Alongside a deep respect for Indian history and culture, elements of his youth—memories of shrines, temples and bustling streets; scents of lacquer and wood from his grandfather’s furniture workshop—all find a way into his architecture.

Life Insurance Corporation Housing
Life Insurance Corporation Housing

Of the tremendous range of completed buildings, which include institutions, mixed-use complexes, housing projects, public spaces, galleries, and private residences, Doshi recalls one of his most personal endeavors, Sangath (Ahmedabad, 1980), his architecture studio which translates to “moving together.” The placement of communal spaces, including a garden and outdoor amphitheater, highlights Doshi’s regard for collaboration and social responsibility. Vaulted roofs, porcelain mosaic tile coverings, grassy areas, and sunken spaces mitigate extreme heat. The mosaic tile detail is echoed in the tortoise-shell inspired roof of Amdavad Ni Gufa (Ahmedabad, 1994), an undulating, cave-like, ferro-cement art gallery, positioned underground, featuring works of Maqbool Fida Husain.

Sangath
Sangath
Amdavad Ni Gufa
Amdavad Ni Gufa

The architect designed Aranya Low Cost Housing (Indore, 1989), which 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.

Aranya Low Cost Housing
Aranya Low Cost Housing

Doshi´s architecture is both poetic and functional. The Indian Institute of Management (Bangalore, 1977-1992), inspired by traditional maze-like Indian cities and temples, is 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.

Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore
Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore

Professor Balkrishna Doshi, of India, has been selected as the 2018 Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate. He is the 45th Pritzker Prize Laureate, and the first to hail from India. “My works are an extension of my life, philosophy and dreams trying to create 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,” comments Doshi. “This reaffirms my belief that, ‘life celebrates when lifestyle and architecture fuse.’”

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), the Institute of Indology (Ahmedabad, 1962), and Premabhai Hall (Ahmedabad, 1976); housing complexes Vidhyadhar Nagar Masterplan and Urban Design (Jaipur, 1984) and Life Insurance Corporation Housing or “Bima Nagar” (Ahmedabad, 1973); and private residence Kamala House (Ahmedabad, 1963), among many others.

Institute of Indology
Institute of Indology
Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology
Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology

Premabhai Hall – “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.

Premabhai Hall
Premabhai Hall
Tagore Memorial Hall
Tagore Memorial Hall

Informed by both Western and Eastern designs, Kamala House was named after Doshi’s wife, and is the architect’s personal residence. Doshi relies on a sustainable and economical approach. Natural light is maximized and streams throughout, while cavity walls trap and minimize heat. Top: Unlike traditional Indian homes at the time, the garden was placed in the rear of the house rather than in the front, to intentionally offer privacy

KAMALA HOUSE
Kamala House

Source: pritzkerprize.com

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