Balkrishna Doshi, one of the most famous architects of the Indian subcontinent, has died at the age of 95.
Doshi passed away on Tuesday, according to a Pritzker Prize spokesperson. He was the first – and so far only – recipient of the award in India, the career equivalent of the Nobel Prize.
“Doshi has been instrumental in shaping the discourse of architecture throughout India and internationally since the 1950s,” said an emailed statement from the Pritzker Prize. “Influenced by the 20th-century masters Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn, he explored the relationships between the basic needs of human life, the connection to self and culture, and social traditions. Through his ethical and personal approach to the built environment, he touched humanity in every socio-economic class in his native country.”
Amdavad ni Gufa, an underground museum with vaulted ceilings that comically protrude above the ground. credit: Vastu Shilpa Consultants
His clinic, 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 about housing, we’re talking about squatters, we’re talking about villages, we’re talking about cities – everyone’s talking, but who’s going to do anything about it? I made the personal decision that I’m going to work for my ‘other half’ – I’m going to work for them and try to empower them “.
Born in Pune in 1927, Doshi worked under Le Corbusier in Paris in the early 1950s before returning to India to oversee modernist masters projects in Chandigarh and Ahmedabad. He settled in the latter, where he established his practice, Vastu Shilpa Consulting, and later completed some of his most famous projects, including the Tagore Memorial Hall and Amdavad ni Gufa, an underground museum topped by a series of vaulted ceilings.
Typical of Doshi’s leading residential complexes, the low-cost Aranya Housing Project features an intricate network of interconnecting walkways, plazas, and public spaces. credit: Vastu Shilpa Consultants
But Doshi has been prolific elsewhere, completing more than 100 projects in cities including Bangalore, Hyderabad and Jaipur. Despite his international fame, his work has been focused almost exclusively on his native country. Some of his other iconic projects include the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore and the Madhya Pradesh Electricity Board building in Jabalpur.
Aranya’s development of low-cost housing, in the city of Indore, is perhaps the best expression of his outlook. It features an intricate network of trails, plazas, and public spaces, and has provided 6,500 affordable residences to more than 80,000 people.
“(In India) we’re talking about housing, we’re talking about squatters, we’re talking about villages, we’re talking about cities – everybody’s talking, but who’s really going to do something about it?” Asked. “I made a personal decision that I was going to work for my ‘other half’ — I was going to work for them and try to empower them.”
Premabhai Hall, an auditorium built in Doshi’s hometown of Ahmedabad. credit: Vastu Shilpa Consultants
In recounting his encounters with “abject poverty” as a child, Doshi went on to reaffirm his commitment to social housing in India.
He said, “These people have nothing – no land, no place, no work.” “But if the government gives them a little piece of land, they can feel that ‘I will work hard, find a way to build my house.
“When I visit these places after nearly 30 years, (I find people) we gave them plinths one foot high with a water tap and a toilet. Today, they have two- or three-story buildings, which they built by themselves… (they are) people.” Multicultural, multi-religious – including different income groups – and they all live together. They talk and communicate.”
This article has been updated with reactions to Doshi’s death.