Balkrishna Doshi, one of the most famous architects of the Indian subcontinent, has died at the age of 95.
According to a spokesperson for the Pritzker Prize, Doshi passed away on Tuesday. He was India’s first and to date the only winner of the award, the profession’s equivalent to the Nobel Prize.
“Doshi has been instrumental in shaping architectural discourse across India and internationally since the 1950s,” said an emailed statement from the Pritzker Prize. “Influenced by 20th century masters Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn, he explored the relationships between the basic needs of human life, the self and culture, and connection and social traditions. With his ethical and personal approach to the built environment, he touched humanity in every socio-economic class in his hometown.”
Amdavad ni Gufa is an underground museum with domed roofs that protrude playfully from the ground. Credit: Vastu Shilpa Consultants
His practice, Studio Sangath, also shared the news of his death on Instagram with a message signed by his family and business partners.
“(In India) we’re talking housing, we’re talking slums, we’re talking villages, we’re talking towns – everybody’s talking but who’s really going to do something about it? The ‘other half’ – I would work for them and try to empower them.”
Born in Pune in 1927, Doshi worked under Le Corbusier in Paris in the early 1950s and then returned to India to oversee projects by modernist masters in Chandigarh and Ahmedabad. He settled on the latter, where he founded his practice Vastu Shilpa Consultants, and would later complete some of his best-known projects, including the Tagore Memorial Hall and Amdavad ni Gufa, an underground museum with a series of domed roofs topped by.
Typical of Doshi’s pioneering residential complexes, the Aranya Low Cost Housing Project features an intricate network of interconnected gateways, courtyards and public spaces. Credit: Vastu Shilpa Consultants
But Doshi was prolific elsewhere, completing over 100 projects in cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Jaipur. Despite his international reputation, his work was almost entirely focused on his home country. Some of his other signature projects include the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore and the Madhya Pradesh Electricity Board building in Jabalpur.
The Aranya Low Cost Housing development in the city of Indore perhaps best expressed his point of view. Boasting an intricate network of gateways, courtyards and public spaces, the city offers 6,500 affordable housing to over 80,000 people.
“(In India) we’re talking about housing, we’re talking slums, we’re talking villages, we’re talking towns – everybody’s talking but who’s really going to do something about it?” He asked. “I made the decision to work for my ‘other half’ – I would work for them and try to empower them.”
Premabhai Hall is an auditorium built in Doshi’s hometown of Ahmedabad. Credit: Vastu Shilpa Consultants
Describing her own encounters with “extreme poverty” as a child, Doshi went on to reaffirm her commitment to social housing in India.
“These people have nothing – no land, no place, no job,” he said. “But if the government gives them a small piece of land, they might get the feeling, ‘I’ll work hard and find a way to build my own house.’ If you bring them together as a community, there’s cooperation, there’s sharing, there’s understanding and all that religion, caste, tradition and There is a spread of professions.
“When I visited this place after nearly 30 years, we were given pedestals with a foot high faucet and toilet (I find people). Today they have two-story or three-story buildings. including — and they all live, talk, and communicate together.”
This article has been updated with reactions to Doshi’s death.
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