The Royal Academy welcomes celebrated Indian architect Balkrishna V. Doshi to deliver the 27th Annual Architecture Lecture.
Professor Balkrishna V. Doshi is a living legend in contemporary architectural history. Since working as a senior designer for Le Corbusier in the ‘50s and supervising his projects in Ahmedabad and Chandigarh, he has developed an extraordinary body of work with his practice Vastu-Shilpa as one of the pioneers of low-cost housing and modern city planning in India. Over almost 70 years of practice, research and teaching, he has created a wide range of projects which demonstrate an exceptional level of environmental and community awareness, adopting modern architectural principles and adapting them to local Indian traditions, resources and context.
Some of his most relevant projects include his own studio Sangath in Ahmedabad (1979-80) and both public and private cultural and educational facilities, such as the Ahmedabad School of Architecture (1966-68), the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore (1977-83), the Gandhi Labour Institute in Ahmedabad (1980-84), the National Institute of Fashion Technology in New Delhi (1989) and the experimental Amdavad ni Gufa Art Gallery (1992-95). Balkrishna V. Doshi’s projects also expand to residential architecture. He has executed numerous commissions for low-cost housing in industrial townships such as the Indian Farmers Fertilisers Cooperative in Kalol (1970-73) or the Aranya Community Housing in Indore (1988), which also received the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 1995.
Coinciding with the 90th birthday of Balkrishna V. Doshi and the 70th anniversary of Indian independence, we have the pleasure of welcoming this legendary architect to the RA to talk about a lifelong career transforming Indian culture and tradition. 1
The architect Balkrishna V. Doshi has been selected to give this years’ Annual Architecture Lecture at the Royal Academy, in honour of his considerable lifetime achievements, as well as for the continued relevance of his thinking. He has gained international renown for his modernist buildings that work in harmony with the climate and culture of India.
Doshi was born in 1927, in Pune, and studied in Mumbai. In the 1950s, early on in his career, he had the opportunity to learn directly from the great modernist architects Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn. Later, keeping in touch with developments in Europe and America, he went on to establish his own unique philosophy in his search for a new Indian architecture.
Lamenting the degeneration of the city into a place for mere commercial transaction, Doshi argues for the creation of an authentic public realm of such quality that it will lodge in our memories. He sees architecture, and in particular the open space between buildings – or “real habitat” as he calls it – as being capable of fostering community relationships and social cohesion, and, as a result, making lives meaningful. In the architect’s words: “Ultimately you don’t notice my buildings as being dominant – what you notice is the life around them”. While Doshi’s architectural forms may express the rational drive of modernism, the fluidity of space running through and around them recalls the informal morphologies of Indian vernacular. Indeed his architecture is mostly comprised of layers of space whose richness and ambiguities are highly appropriate to the intricacies of Indian social life and mores.