“Architecture is an extension of life.” During his more than 60 years of practice, Indian Pritzker Prize-winner Balkrishna Doshi has made substantial contributions to the evolution of architectural discourse in India, as well as pioneering work on low-income housing. In this extensive interview, Doshi shares the story of how he became the architect he is today, and why he considers a building a living, growing organism.
Doshi argues that the story of India is the story of finding your footing after a long struggle of dependence – and deciding to improve. Architecture is not only about housing but about creating understanding in people as to “what is the nature of what we had, what we are happy about, proud about? And what are we going to give back in return?” He compares this to a revolution, which begins with nothing: “And now we are facing the challenges of the new world, the technological world. And I think this is where the whole juxtaposition has happened, and I think this is where I was trying to play my role as an architect.” In connection to this, Doshi also talks about building low-income housing, where the residents – from all social levels – are given the opportunity to expand the house themselves. This, he argues, gives people roots, hope and aspirations: “Variety is there, diversity is there, but most important, identity is there, and community life is there.” In this way, architecture is also about creating a social change: “The moment you empower people, there is hope.”
Balkrishna Doshi (b. 1927) is an Indian architect, who is considered a pioneer of modernist and brutalist architecture in India. Doshi has realized a wide range of projects, which include institutions, mixed-use complexes, housing projects, public spaces, galleries, and private residences, adopting principles of moderns architecture and adapting them to local culture, traditions, resources, and nature. From 1951-1954 he lived in Paris, where he worked under Le Corbusier (1887-1965). Upon returning to India, he oversaw Le Corbusier’s projects in Chandigarh and Ahmedabad, which include the Mille Owner’s Association Building. Doshi founded his own practice in 1956, and selected projects include Indian Institute of Management (1977-1992) in Bangalore, Amdavad Ni Gufa (1994) in Ahmedabad, Aranya Low Cost Housing (1989) in Indore, and his architecture studio Sangath (meaning ‘moving together’) in Ahmedabad (1980). Among numerous prestigious awards, Doshi is the recipient of the Pritzker Prize (2018) (the first Indian architect to receive the honour), Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters of France (2011), Global Award for Lifetime Achievement for Sustainable Architecture from Institut Francais d’Architecture (2007), Aga Khan Award for Architecture (1993-1995) (for Aranya Community Housing), and Padma Shree National Award (1976).
Balkrishna Doshi was interviewed by Khushnu Panthaki Hoof at his studio in 2018 in connection with the upcoming exhibition Balkrishna Doshi: Architecture for the People at Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein in Germany in May 2019.
Interview from ‘Balkrishna Doshi Interview, 2018’
Produced and directed by Vastu Shilpa Foundation
Camera: Vinay Panjwani
Copyright: Vastu Shilpa Foundation 2018
Edited by Klaus Elmer
Produced by Marc-Christoph Wagner
Cover photo: Courtesy of Pritzker Architecture Prize
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2019
Supported by Dreyers Fond
With friendly support from Vastu Shilpa Foundation and Khushnu Panthaki Hoof, VSF Archives, R.A.T. Films, The Hyatt Foundation/Pritzker Architecture Prize, and Vitra Design Museum.
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