A tribute to great architect BV Doshi

Architect BV Doshi

Pritzker Prize winner and the great architect of India BV Doshi passed away on 24 January 2023. The Tiles of India pay him a tribute.

The influential Indian academic and Pritzker Prize–winning architect Balkrishna Doshi died at the age of 95. He will be remembered for his many altruistic projects, chameleon-like aesthetic, and supreme spirituality over his more than 70-year career. After cutting his teeth working under Le Corbusier on various projects in the 1950s and collaborating with Louis Kahn on the iconic—and now endangered—IIM campus in Ahmedabad, India, he struck out on his own with numerous noteworthy buildings in his home country, including Aranya low-income housing in Indore, CEPT University’s School of Architecture, Life Insurance Corporation Housing and Amdavad Ni Gufa, all in Ahmedabad.

Doshi was born in Pune on 26 August 1927, moved to Mumbai in 1947 and enrolled in the architecture course at the Sir J.J. College of Architecture. In 1950, he left on a ship for London and after a few months there, he moved to Paris to work under Le Corbusier. He returned to India in 1954 to oversee Le Corbusier’s projects in Chandigarh and Ahmedabad. His life’s practice is tied intrinsically with India’s modern history. His contribution, along with his peers like Achyut Kanvinde, Anant Raje, Mahendra Raj, Anant Raje, Charles Correa, and Raj Rewal has been immense.

He worked with Louis Kahn as an associate at the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, a collaboration that began in 1962 and continued for over a decade. He established his own practice, Vastu Shilpa Consultants, in Ahmedabad in 1955 and the Vastu Shilpa Foundation for Studies and Research in Environmental Design in 1978.

His time spent working with Buckminster Fuller at the School of Architecture in 1965, the making of the National Institute of Design and the influence of the Eameses in the 1970s, and his meetings with remarkable patrons like Dr Vikram Sarabhai and Sheth Kasturbhai Lalbhai—all of it is part of a history that was not architectural alone, but inevitably of the larger social, economic, and cultural journey of our country.

The unique language of architecture (and habitat) that was being written in these decades, the thoughts around space, land, air, light, material, and techniques, and how we use space—in a way, all of it can be studied and grasped by studying Doshi’s life and its turns, his architectural works, his writings, commentaries, sketches, and art. It’s a vast body of work, but for now, a simple anecdote will remind us of how Doshi used to think. In the 1960s, he began to work on townships.

Beyond an architect, Doshi was an institution builder. His contribution to academia as founder-director of the School of Architecture, Ahmedabad (1962-72), School of Planning in Ahmedabad (1972-79), and building campuses around the country, including the CEPT University in Ahmedabad, NIFT in New Delhi, and IIM in Bangalore, Doshi was a natural educationist.

He was on the jury for several international and national competitions including the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts, the Aga Khan Award for Architecture and the Pritzker Architecture Prize, and a fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

In 1976, he was awarded the Padma Shri; In 2018, he won the 45th Pritzker Prize, architecture’s highest honour, and India’s first, followed by the Padma Bhushan in 2020, and last year, he received the RIBA Royal Gold Medal in 2022.

We will truly miss him!

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