Famed architect BV Doshi speaks during a programme at the Government Museum and Art Gallery in Sector 10, Chandigarh
Famed architect BV Doshi speaks during a programme at the Government Museum and Art Gallery in Sector 10, Chandigarh © S Chandan

“Buildings are not dead boxes,” he begins. “They are as important as us,” he adds. As BV Doshi, celebrated architect and planner, takes you through his presentation on the Art of Architecture in Chandigarh on Tuesday, you begin to see what he really means. You see how, like art, architecture too ceases to be just architecture for architecture’s sake. It becomes you, your world.

At the heart of it lies one little lesson he learnt from his guru, the master architect, Le Corbusier. “Corbusier was always analysing animals, plants and their form. What I learnt from him is that when you begin to analyse what gives them their form, you stop seeing the structures as a system,” says Doshi, who is here to give a series of lectures on architecture and Corbusier, organised by the Chandigah Lalit Kala Akademi and the Chandigarh Tourism. ... For Doshi, the structures have to be climate oriented. Whether it is public spaces or his house or his famous office Sangath, which was among the 125 best designs of the world in the last 125 years in a leading US magazine last month, all minimise use of artificial lighting and modes of cooling. In all his works, he says, vocabulary is the same and the location is the most important.

Stressing on students studying traditional buildings, he says they must analyse why they are cherished. “Not for their cultural or historic value but understand why their style and structure has existed for so long,” says Doshi.

He also wants students to learn how to use things frugally so that they become affordable. That, for him, is very important for a country like India where one-half is lesser than the other. And he tells them that good architecture need not be complex. It must be simple. “Just follow the sun,” he says but points that most architects will forget a simple thing: “Where will kids play?” That is why, he says, it is important for an architect to study behavioural science too. He says the answer to that will follow when people begin to look at space as an unmeasurable thing, not a measurable thing.1


Open Hand, he reminds, is the hand of Buddha as also one of blessing and also represents sharing. Then Assembly is a testimony to the power of people and High Court the symbol of justice and order. “The real wonder is that Corbusier made it all come together as one entity and showed to the world what architecture is all about. In short, Chandigarh indirectly tells us that we should live with minimum disparity and how we should place premium on the value of the land, not its price. It should develop as a society that draws from nature and gives back to nature.” 

If the city residents don’t have an answer to how the city should progress, he certainly has.  He says, “Planners have to keep in mind the well-being of all. Irrespective of status, all must move forward without strife and with judicious use of resources.” 

But with the famed Punjabi propensity for extravagance, does he really think what Corbusier envisioned is possible today?  He disagrees that all Punjabis are extravagant, “If a few are, I am sure there are a whole lot who don’t believe in conspicuous consumption.” He goes on to add, “See humanity at large is not cruel but we make it seem so by highlighting only the negative. We don’t focus on what is good for us.” That’s why he feels that we haven’t learnt any lessons from these buildings that are like temples thriving on sustainable use of resources.” 

Looking back, he also recalls Corbusier the man with whom he worked in early 1950s in his Paris office. “He was like a yogi who would not meet anyone from eight to 12 in the morning and remained engrossed in research and study. When he came to India he not only studied its people but its animals, nature and realised the close bond we share with nature. And thus what he created added to the reverence of Himalayas.”2


“In my office, there is a photograph of Corbusier that I look at many times in a day, and ask myself if my guru were sitting here, what he would have said and also if I am on the right rack. From him, I learnt to observe, dissect, synthesise, transform, the guiding principles of my work. And discipline, take care of yourself and the world will take care of you,” says Doshi whose works are defined by departure from conventional norms, with the architect involved in a multitude of related activities like architectural education, integration of visual art with architecture, holistic architecture, building technology etc.

Cities have grown the way we wanted them to, Doshi says in the context of Chandigarh, “but it’s people who are using the city, and creating problems. These buildings are made like a temple, be the quality of material, light, air, beauty, sustainability. These buildings are about balancing diversity and initiating a dialogue”.3

  • 1. http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/chandigarh/education/search-for-your-world-in-architecture-bv-doshi/314970.html
  • 2. http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/life-style/building-a-better-tomorrow/314303.html
  • 3. http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/chandigarh/le-corbusiers-eminent-pupil-prof-dr-balkrishna-doshi-chandigarh-must-lead-the-way-as-a-model-city-for-the-common-man-3101577/