Balkrishna Vithaldas Doshi, also called B.V. Doshi was an acclaimed Indian architect. An important figure in Indian architecture, he is noted for his contributions to the evolution of architectural discourse in India. After a stellar 70-year career as an architectural designer, urban planner and educator, he passed away yesterday at the age of 95.
B.V. Doshi was born in Pune in 1927 in a family that had been involved in the furniture industry for two generations. He had an aptitude for art and form from a young age and was exposed to architecture by a school teacher. His journey in architecture studies started in 1947 at the Sir J.J. School of Architecture, Bombay. Having spent his early career working with celebrated architects like Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn, he went on to become the first Indian architect to win the Pritzker Prize in 2018.
Of the tremendous range of completed buildings, which include institutions, mixed-use complexes, housing projects, public spaces, galleries, and private residences, Doshi considered his architecture studio, Sangath to be one of his most personal endeavors. “Sangath fuses images and associations of Indian lifestyles. The campus integrates, and memories of places visited collide, evoking and connecting forgotten episodes. Sangath is an ongoing school where one learns, unlearns and relearns. It has become a sanctuary of culture, art and sustainability where research, institutional facilities and maximum sustainability are emphasized", he told Pritzker.
After his decade-long collaborative work with Louis Kahn, he established Vastushilpa Foundation for Studies and Research in Environmental Design in 1978 to evolve indigenous design and planning standards for built environments appropriate to the socio-cultural and environmental milieu of India. In considering India’s traditions, lifestyles, and environment, Doshi designed structures that offered refuge from the weather and provided spaces in which to gather.
Some of his most iconic designs include Aranya, the low-cost housing in Indore, ECIL Township in Hyderabad, Sawai Gandharva in Pune, Amdavad ni Gufa in Ahemdabad, NIFT in Delhi, IIM in Bangalore, National War Musuem and Memorial in Delhi, Institute of Indology and Premabhai Hall Ahemdabad among others.
Infused with lessons from western architects before him, his artistic vision was forged with a deep reverence for life, eastern culture, and forces of nature; creating 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 as well as scents of lacquer and wood from his grandfather’s furniture workshop all found a way into his designs.
Architectural Digest called him 'a master wielder of form and light'. B.V. Doshi spent his life as a student of architecture, practicing and teaching its philosophies to those who shared the same love and appreciation for design. His creations explored the relationships between the fundamental needs of human life, connectivity to self and culture, and respect for social traditions. Doshi considered architecture as an extension of the body and used his designs as a language speaking for the people in it and the natural world surrounding it, which is how he will be remembered. He was a true pioneer of modernist and brutalist architecture who transcended spaces, taking them beyond the physical world to a spiritual manifestation and expression of life.