The Work of Indian Pritzker Prize 2018 Laureate Architect, Balkrishna Vithaldas Doshi

By Mari Siampani*

In March, the Pritzker Prize (equivalent to a Nobel for Architecture) Jury announced the selected Laureate for 2018 to be for the first time in history an Indian Architect, Professor Balkrishna Vithaldas Doshi, recognizing this way his offer to his country and the humanity, through his built work the past 60 years.

Prof. B.V. Doshi was born in 1927 in Pune experiencing throughout his youth both India’s Independence and India’s Partition. He studied Architecture in Mumbai and in 1951 he traveled to Paris to work for one of the most reputed modern master-architects of the world, the Swiss-French Le Corbusier. After France, he returned to India to supervise Le Corbusie’s projects in Ahmedabad and Chandigarh. He founded his own firm which during the ’60 collaborated with another world-famous architect, the Esthonian-American Luis Kahn. Architecture students are familiar with his projects from the History of Architecture class.

His language is one that approaches the built environment holistically putting people, place, climate and local tradition at the center of his interest. Characteristic of his architecture is the use of local techniques, materials and crafts people combined with contemporary technology. The visual result of these choices has a rather poetic result, one could say, sculptural if we take into account his tendency for vaulted roofs covered by little pieces of ceramics to repel the monsoon waters. He is an architect who managed to create high-aesthetic functional spaces at a low cost achieving to address architecture to the wider public. The use of light, open air spaces, natural barriers are all elements that target at the same spot. As he had claimed in the past, his goal was to provide proper dwelling to the lowest class and the Pritzker Prize this year came to acknowledge he succeeded in doing so.

Founder of the Architectural School in Ahmedabad which led to the CEPT University but also of his Architectural Lab named Sanghat from the Sanskrit word that means to move together, to accompany, or the relevant, the appropriate. The values he represents are in balance with his professional activity from all aspects, be it the design, the classes curriculum even the name he chose for his studio.

Throughout his career he realized a significant number of public and private buildings among which are the Indian Institute of Management, the Institute of Indology, the Aranya Low Cost Housing, the Center of Environment and Planning Technology and many more.

In his last, till now project, the Center of Arts of the eminent artist and founder Jatin Das, I had the honor to participate as an architect during my stay in Delhi in 2013. I followed its progress with undiminished interest and returned to India in 2015 to work again in this and other projects of the firm I collaborated with. The Center of Arts is under construction and will open for the public soon with permanent and temporary exhibitions of Indian and foreign artists as well as exhibitions of Jatin’s Das work and personal collections. Workshops of various arts and crafts will be hosted in the building and the Annual Arts & Crafts Film Festival will have its roof there.

Mari Siampani, Architect Engineer, Patras School of Architecture graduate, MArch “Architecture-History-Project” Roma-Tre University of Rome. She has been a laboratory associate in “Renovation of Buildings” and “Museology, Museography & Exhibition Design” Departments of the National Technical Institute of West Greece. She has collaborated with offices in Greece, Italy, India and Norway while she runs her own architectural offices (www.siampaniarchitects.com) in Patras and Athens. Member TEE and RIBA.

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