Dr. Balkrishna Doshi, India’s Master Modernist, Dies at 95

Balkrishna Doshi was the first Pritzker Prize honoree from India, receiving architecture’s Nobel in 2018 for steadfastly championing “architecture for the people”

Words Gabrielle de la Cruz
Images Sangath, Wikimedia Commons, and Flickr

Architectural Digest India announced the passing of Indian architect BV Doshi today, January 24, 2023. He is among India’s most celebrated architects, spending his early career under the guidance of renowned architects Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn.

Balkrishna Doshi - portrait
Indian architect Balkrishna Vithaldas Doshi OAL. Author: DrashtiUnit at Wikimedia Commons, CC Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International

Doshi made history when he became the first Indian recipient of the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2018. From September 10 to December 12, 2020, exhibition space Wrightwood 659 in partnership with Vitra Design Museum of Germany presented “Balkrishna Doshi: Architecture for the People,” an exhibit that celebrates his impact on the Indian architecture scene. The show’s title could not be more fitting, as the Indian architect’s works have always demonstrated humanism. Two of his notable projects, the Life Insurance Corporation Housing in Ahmedabad (1973) and the Aranya Low-Cost Housing in Indore (1989), are dedicated to addressing the shortage of homes in India.

As an urban planner, Doshi prioritized communities. This was seen in his work in the housing complex Vidhyadhar Nagar, a master plan and urban design project he did with his team, Vastushilpa Consultants. For the project’s description, the architect asked: “Can we minimize motorized travel and maximize walking and cycling? Can we change the conventional land use patterns and provide for mixed land uses? Can we create opportunities at various scales where everybody can work together? Can we find an optimal transportation network?”

Balkrishna Doshi - Vidhyadhar Nagar
Masterplan for Vidhyadhar Nagar, a housing complex with 30,000 dwelling units. Image courtesy of Sangath.

Throughout the hundreds of projects Doshi realized, he employed modern architectural principles and translated them to Indian culture, traditions, resources, and nature. He is known as one of the pioneers of modern architecture in his country and his works have undoubtedly elevated the Indian architecture discourse.

On June 15, 2022, Doshi was formally awarded the 2022 Royal Gold Medal for Architecture. The 2022 Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Honours Committee emphasized the significant contribution of Doshi to the advancement of architecture by acknowledging how he has “combined pioneering modernism with vernacular” and how his works depict his “deep appreciation of the traditions of India’s architecture, climate, local culture, and craft”. They exclaimed that Doshi “remains as prolific as he is inspirational,” and the global architecture scene definitely knows that he always will. •

Gabrielle de la Cruz started writing about architecture and design in 2019. She previously wrote for BluPrint magazine and was trained under the leadership of then editor-in-chief Judith Torres and previous creative director Patrick Kasingsing. Read more of her work here and follow her on Instagram @gabbie.delacruz.

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