Top UK honour for Indian architect Balkrishna Doshi

Doshi, 94, has influenced the direction of architecture in India and the region through his practice and teaching during his 70-year career, during which he built over 100 projects.


By Prasun Sonwalkar

Published: Fri 10 Dec 2021, 3:20 PM

Balkrishna Doshi, who worked with the iconic architect Le Corbusier and whose projects include some of the most known structures in India and elsewhere, has been selected to receive the Royal Gold Medal 2022, one of the world’s highest honours for architecture.

Given in recognition of a lifetime’s work, the medal is approved personally by Queen Elizabeth and is given to a person or group of people who have had a significant influence on the advancement of architecture.

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) said the Pune-born Doshi, 94, has influenced the direction of architecture in India and the region through his practice and teaching during his 70-year career, during which he built over 100 projects.

Doshi’s buildings combine pioneering modernism with vernacular, informed by a deep appreciation of the traditions of India’s architecture, climate, local culture and craft, the RIBA, founded in 1834, said.

His projects include administrative and cultural facilities, housing developments and residential buildings. He is known for his visionary urban planning and social housing projects and as a visiting professor at universities around the world.

Doshi’s key projects include: Shreyas Comprehensive School Campus (1958-63), Ahmedabad, India; Atira Guest House (1958), Ahmedabad, India, low cost housing; The Institute of Indology (1962), Ahmedabad, India, a building to house rare documents; Ahmedabad School of Architecture (1966, with additions until 2012) - renamed CEPT University in 2002 - which focused on creating spaces that promoted collaborative learning; Tagore Hall & Memorial Theatre (1967), a 700 seat Brutalist auditorium in Ahmedabad, India; Premabhai Hall (1976), Ahmedabad, India, former theatre and auditorium; Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore (1977 – 1992), a business school; Sangath (1981), the studio for his architecture practice, Vastu Shilpa; Kanoria Centre for Arts (1984), an arts and creative hub; Aranya Low Cost Housing (1989), Indore, India, which won the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 1995 and Amdavad ni Gufa (1994), a cave-like art gallery that exhibits the work of artist Maqbool Fida Husain.

Doshi said on hearing about the honour: “I am pleasantly surprised and deeply humbled to receive the Royal Gold Medal from the Queen of England. What a great honour! The news of this award brought back memories of my time working with Le Corbusier in 1953 when he had just received the news of getting the Royal Gold Medal”.

He added: “Today, six decades later I feel truly overwhelmed to be bestowed with the same award as my guru, Le Corbusier - honouring my six decades of practice. I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to my wife, my daughters and most importantly my team and collaborators at Sangath, my studio.”

Born in a family of furniture makers, Doshi studied at the J J School of Architecture, Mumbai, before working for four years with Le Corbusier as Senior Designer (1951-54) in Paris and four more years in India to supervise projects in Ahmedabad. He also worked with Louis Kahn as an associate to build the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. Doshi founded his practice, Vastushilpa, in 1956.

RIBA President Simon Allford said: "It was an honour and a pleasure to chair the committee in selecting Balkrishna Doshi as the 2022 Royal Gold Medallist. At ninety-four years old he has influenced generations of architects through his delightfully purposeful architecture. Influenced by his time spent in the office of Le Corbusier his work nevertheless is that of an original and independent thinker – able to undo, redo and evolve”.

“In the twentieth century, when technology facilitated many architects to build independently of local climate and tradition, Balkrishna remained closely connected with his hinterland: it’s climate, technologies new and old and crafts”, he added.

Besides Alford, the 2022 Honours Committee included architects Alison Brooks and last year’s Royal Gold Medal recipient David Adjaye OBE, architect and academic Kate Cheyne and cultural historian and museum director Gus Casely-Hayford.

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