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In a First, Indian Architect Wins Pritzker Architecture Prize

Balkrishna Doshi

Indian architect Balkrishna Doshi has become the first from the country to win the Pritzker Architecture Prize in the award’s 40-year history. The $100,000 Pritzker Architecture Prize, established by the Pritzker family of Chicago, is touted as the Nobel Prize of Architecture.

Doshi, the 90-year-old disciple of Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier, is known for his pioneering work in low cost housing. He has designed structures throughout India, the most known being the Indian Institute of Management in Bengaluru, the Indian Institute of Management in Lucknow, New Delhi’s National Institute of Fashion Technology and Aranya Low Cost Housing complex in Indore.

The Pritzker jury in its citation on March 7 said Doshi’s work is “serious, never flashy or follower of trends.” His creations have a deep sense of responsibility and a desire to contribute to his country and its people through “high-quality, authentic architecture,” it added.

The jury further said: “Doshi is acutely aware of the context in which his buildings are located. His solutions take into account the social, environmental and economic dimensions, and therefore his architecture is totally engaged with sustainability.”

The architect, often referred to as BV Doshi, responded to the honor, saying, “I think it is very, very significant that this award has come to India — of course to me, but to India.” He told CNN in an interview: “The government, officials, those who take decisions, cities – everyone will start thinking that there is something called ‘good architecture’ [and that] lasting things can happen. [Only] then can we start talking about urbanization and urban design.”

He dedicated his prize to his guru Le Corbusier and was quoted in reports as saying that Corbusier’s teachings led him to “question identity and compelled me to discover new regionally adopted contemporary expression for a sustainable holistic habitat.”

Le Corbusier has been credited with designing the city of Chandigarh. Doshi told NPR website: “For me, the best lessons ever given by Le Corbusier was by drawing on my table — he was sitting on the table and drawing with me. So he was showing me how people would move, how they would go, how the birds would fly through the buildings, how you would see nature, landscapes. And when he drew a sketch of a tree, you could see the tree moving. And I think those experiences have stayed with me, and connected me to my childhood and my family and my life.”

Doshi was born in Pune in August 1927 to a family that has been in the furniture business for generations. Doshi, however, studied architecture in Mumbai and then went to Paris to work under Le Corbusier in 1951. He came back to India in 1954 and supervised Corbusier’s projects in Chandigarh and Ahmedabad. In 1956, he found his own firm Vastushilpa in Ahmedabad, which has five partners and 60 employees.

Doshi, the 45th laureate of the award, will receive the honor at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto in May.