Pritzker Prize-winning Indian architect Doshi passes away at 95

Trained with the legendary European architect Le Corbusier, he was a staunch advocate of low-cost housing for the poor


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Balkrishna Vithaldas Doshi at his residence in Ahmedabad. — AFP file
Balkrishna Vithaldas Doshi at his residence in Ahmedabad. — AFP file

Published: Wed 25 Jan 2023, 8:01 PM

Pioneering modernist architect Balkrishna Vithaldas Doshi, India’s only winner of the prestigious Pritzker Prize and a staunch advocate of low-cost housing for the poor, has died at the age of 95.

Doshi died at his home in Ahmedabad on Tuesday, a residence with a facade dominated by the imposing concrete formwork beloved of his post-war contemporaries.

He never completed a formal degree in his profession but trained with the legendary European architect Le Corbusier, whose titanic influence on urban planning and design would become a lifelong source of inspiration.

Corbusier is best known in India for designing from scratch the concrete-clad city of Chandigarh which, like his other most famous works, was occasionally criticised for its perceived indifference to the natural environment and human needs.

Doshi proved more adept than his mentor at blending modernist styles with functionality, producing what he called a “holistic habitat”.

His chief commissions, beginning in the 1960s with a university campus in his hometown, helped define newly independent India, while his residences aspired to raise living standards at a time of widespread poverty.

“My projects have been participatory in nature and relevant to the people for which it was designed,” he told AFP in a 2018 interview.

“India is transforming fast and we need to do a large number of things which have to be ecologically sustainable and that would empower the people.”

The Aranya Low Cost Housing project, one of his best known projects, accommodates 80,000 people with houses and courtyards linked by a maze of pathways in the city of Indore.

His Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore, opened in 1977 and now the country’s top business school, is celebrated for its ample gathering spaces and rabbit warren of exterior corridors facilitating chance encounters between faculty and students.

Doshi won the 2018 Pritzker Prize, architecture’s equivalent of the Nobel, with the jury lauding him for his masterful treatment of “climate, site, technique, and craft, along with a deep understanding and appreciation of the context in the broadest sense”.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi led tributes to “a brilliant architect and a remarkable institution builder”.

“The coming generations will get glimpses of his greatness by admiring his rich work across India,” Modi said.

Doshi’s works are preserved and displayed at Sangath Studio in Ahmedabad, run by one of his granddaughters.

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