Corbusier. Modernism. Pritzker, these fortunate strokes of victories speak for the years of practice and learning that are the part and parcel of the empathetic architect’s life, B.V. Doshi. On this day, 26th August, 1927 Doshi was born in Pune, India.
The first Indian ever to receive the architecture’s highest accolade, the Pritzker Architecture Prize Award in 2018, Doshi is one of those architectural reformers of India who have worked for the welfare of society actively. The Padma Shri recipient is responsible for designing over hundred buildings and establishing several schools of architecture. Doshi has cranked the nation’s building spirituality up a notch.
As Doshi found the answers for generation of architects, his designing skills are an inherited wealth. His interest in architecture found a channel while he spend his time in his grandfather’s furniture workshop. After graduating from Sir J.J. School of architecture in Mumbai, he travelled to London in 1950.
As the only Indian present at the conference of the CIAM Congress held at Hoddesdon, Doshi was asked questions about Chandigarh. This challenging yet blessed stroke of serendipity encouraged him to ask if he could get a chance to work on a project. Being told that Corbusier was a difficult man to work with, Doshi was up for any challenge that came his way.
At the first shake of two dynamic hands and minds, Doshi was told to submit an application in his own handwriting. Corbusier had this peculiarity – perhaps he had it checked later by those handwriting specialists. Little did Doshi know, that he would be paid nothing?
So, the maestro architect to rule the upcoming decades was paid nothing for his first job. However, as we know, the rest is history.
This stint led Doshi in the Corbusier’s intimate circle. He worked with the master over a period of some seven years – first in Paris, later in Chandigarh and Ahmedabad. Being an enigma to the world, Doshi was one of those handful of colleagues that Le Corbusier showed his human side and had a platonic relationship with. Doshi was one of those aces of Corbusier that the latter associated with, giving him the rare insight into his mind, not open to all.
Doshi returned to India to oversee the construction of some of Le Corbusier’s projects, including the Mill Owners’ Association Building and the Villa Sarabhai in Ahmedabad. He eventually settled in the city and in 1956 he founded his own practice, Vastushilpa which he later renamed as Vastushilpa Consultants. He also designed his own residence in 1963, named Kamala House after his wife.
Since the inception of his studio, Sangath in 1980, his firm has worked on more than 100 projects throughout India, including a collaboration with the mighty Louis Kahn on the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad in 1962.
Modern means up-to-date and an attributed characteristic of B.V. Doshi’s early style of practicing architecture.From the vaulted canopies of the Sangath Studio to the grid ion patterned master plan of Vidhyadhar Nagar in Jaipur, Doshi’s graphics appear to filter modernist standards through the lens of his native India.
One of the hallmarks of the modernism era in architecture was brutalism. This oeuvre of Le Corbusier was the advent of Doshi’s architectural odyssey in India.
Doshi adopted brutalism style of architecture by Corbusier, while the former deserves complete credits to camouflage it with the vernacular architectural practices of India. He transformed and revolutionized the mass housing and institutional scenario exponentially, both in physicality and in spirit.
The School of Architecturerenamed as the Center for Environment Planning and Technology (CEPT) in Ahmedabad was founded and designed by Doshi in 1966. The institute’s building reminds of the grid façade of the Mill Owners’ Association Building and the apparent use of brick and concrete evokes the Villa Sarabhai.
While Le Corbusier’s words always in his heart and mind,like the ones “to create a soft light that makes people’s faces glow,” Doshi included slanted skylights and sliding doors to manipulate light and to regulate temperature. Inclusion of recessed plazas and soothing landscape elements throughout the campus offers an escape from heat andsocial spaces for students to meet in comfort.
Doshi is synonymous to Affordable Housing in India. Significantly involved in the design of Chandigarh, Doshiwas assigned the living spaces designing for the thousands of humble government servants. This paved the way to his continued interest in producing the best, basic and low-cost communal spaces.
Within this regard, Doshi designed the Life insurance Corporation Housing in Ahmedabad in 1973 and the Aranya Low Cost Housing in Indore in 1989. The latter is the most notable and the Aga Khan Award winning project. It is a sustainable township for low to middle income families.
The master-plan provides housing for economically weaker sections (EWS). This also includes households of middle and high-income groups. In each sector’s inner core, a 30 sq.m plot with a brick plinth, a built toilet, water and electricity was allotted to each EWS household.
The initial demonstrative sixty sample houses showed likely variations for individual family. In thirty years, the entire fully developed township harmonizes the virtues of choice, freedom and social togetherness. As envisaged, the EWS groups emulate maximizing multiple uses of space with minimum of efforts.The completed township provides 80,000 individuals with 6,500 residences.
Where does wisdom end and divinity begin? The focused young boy from Pune didn’t just become Officer of the Order of arts and letters (2011). He pursued his love for design, trained his mind to execute his principles and accepted the responsibilities to excel.
Dr. Balkrishna Vithaldas Doshi has constantly demonstrated that all good architecture and urban planning is not only about uniting forms and structure but it is the profound understanding of the context in the broadest sense. Projects that go beyond the functionality to connect with the human spirit through poetic and philosophical underpinnings are symphonies of architectural future of India.
An architect, urban planner and teacher, for his steadfast example of integrity and his tireless contributions to India and beyond, Doshi has given the world a roadmap for integrating traditional planning principles in a subtle alchemy.
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