The gods of architecture have finally turned to India. Balkrishna Doshi, a 90-year old architect and academic is the recipient of this year’s Pritzker Architecture Prize. It’s the first in the so-called “Nobel prize of architecture’s” 40-year history that the Pritzker has been bestowed to a South Asian architect.

This year’s Pritzker jury has selected Indian architect Balkrishna Doshi, often known as B.V. Doshi or Doshi, as the 2018 Pritzker Prize Laureate. Doshi has been a practitioner of architecture for over 70 years. Previously, he had studied and worked with both Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn. Doshi’s poetic architecture draws upon Eastern influences to create a body of work that “has touched lives of every socio-economic class across a broad spectrum of genres since the 1950s,” cites the jury. Doshi is the first Indian architect to receive architecture’s highest honor.
The 90-year-old Doshi – one of the last living architects to have apprenticed with the Franco-Swiss trailblazer Le Corbusier – distinguished his work by committing to sustainable architecture and inexpensive housing, bringing modernist design to an India still rooted in traditionalism.

He is the 45th Pritzker laureate and the first from India.

“Architect, urban planner, and educator for the past 70 years, Doshi has been instrumental in shaping the discourse of architecture throughout India and internationally,” stated in a press release.

“Influenced by masters of 20th century architecture, Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, known as Le Corbusier, and Louis Khan, Doshi has been able to interpret architecture and transform it into built works that respect eastern culture while enhancing the quality of living in India. His ethical and personal approach to architecture has touched lives of every socio-economic class across a broad spectrum of genres since the 1950s.”

Among Doshi’s achievements: the Aranya low-cost housing project in Indore, which accommodates over 80,000 people, many of them poor, through a system of houses, courtyards and internal pathways. He has become famous in his native India as an educator who transformed practices in his field, partly by establishing several schools of architecture and design. He has built more than a hundred buildings that reflect his investment in local materials, social change and the environment. As a student and young architect himself, Doshi worked with two of the great Modernists of the 20th century: Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn.

Doshi started studying architecture in 1947, the same year India gained independence. His family built furniture, not buildings, but one of the architect’s earliest inspirations was his grandfather’s house, upon which new levels were repeatedly added, to accommodate three uncles and their families.

“I always sensed the space as alive,” Doshi remembers. “Space and light and the kind of movement that gets into the space for me are very, very significant. That’s what generates a dialogue. That’s what generates activities. And that’s where you begin to become part of life. My architecture philosophy is: Architecture is a backdrop for life.”

He remembers sitting outside under a tree for some of his childhood classes, so when he designs buildings meant for education, Doshi aims to connect the students with their natural environment. “We are constantly preoccupied with ourselves,” he tells NPR. “And we are never aware of what goes on around us, or what the space is. And for me, [the] experiences I try to create in the work are those where people really begin to feel what is here and inside them, and what brings it out.”

As an example, Doshi pointed to his own office, Sangath, in the city of Ahmedabad, which he completed in 1980.”You don’t see the place as an office because it doesn’t look like an office, really,” he explains. “There’s a garden. Meandering through, you don’t see anybody. So you wonder whether the office has any people or not. You don’t know where the entrance is. So actually, it’s a surprise to discover it. But in the meantime, you change your attitude. You’ve forgotten the crowd. Then you are listening to the music that’s going on through the small speakers around. Then you go into the office and you are … below ground. I think it’s like a journey. Architecture is a journey — a journey of discovery.”

And that’s exactly what he wants visitors to all of his buildings to experience.
“I want them to forget why they came. This is the way to hypnotize them,” the Pritzker winner explains, his voice catching with laughter. “This is such a wonderful thing to do. Why should we take architecture seriously?”

Balkrishna Doshi believes that, like life itself, architecture should be experienced with exuberance and wonder, and with an abiding sense of its endless possibilities.
While the work of Pritzker winners are often scattered across the globe, Doshi is known for working almost completely in his homeland, designing buildings for government offices, companies and universities.

Born in 1927 in the city of Pune, Doshi studied architecture in Mumbai and later worked under Le Corbusier, overseeing his projects in the cities of Chandigarh and Ahmedabad. He was the founding director of Ahmedabad’s School of Architecture and Planning, which is now known as CEPT University.

He founded his own practice in 1956, and lives and works in Ahmedabad.

Doshi will be formally awarded the prize in a May ceremony at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto.

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