What made Doshi’s work unique was the fact that despite changes in India’s capacity to build over the decades, and despite changing requirements, the architect never lost sight of what would work best in a country where summer temperatures can go up to 122 degrees Fahrenheit (50 centigrade). The cool brick-and-stone buildings that he created so many decades ago in various parts of the country are in sharp contrast to the in-your-face glass architecture of a post-economic liberalization India. In fact, many of the young Indians born after 1990 when the country started witnessing a construction boom may not be familiar with Doshi’s work. They have grown up in a world where skyscrapers with glass facades have and continue to sprout up with shameful speed all across the country. Glass buildings in a sun-drenched country do little to save energy or help the environment with their all-pervasive need for air-conditioning. But that’s another story.
His strengths have been recognized before with other awards, such as Padma Shri, the distinguished civilian honor by the government of India; Ordre des Arts et des Letters from the French government; and the Sixth Aga Khan Award for Architecture, to name a few.
A few weeks after the announcement of the prize, Doshi spoke to BLOUIN ARTINFO’s Art+Auction over phone from Sangath, his well-known office in Ahmedabad in western India, about the prize, its impact on younger generation of architects in India, his journey as an architect and more.
How important is Pritzker Prize for your practice?
It’s a prestigious prize and no doubt, important. There are a few things involved here — as a practitioner of a profession that doesn’t have much publicity, it helps to make your work known to a broader audience. Besides, it reiterates your bond with the larger professional group that you belong to. And, it’s a recognition for a country too.
However, the value of the prize goes beyond all of this. It helps in slowly filtering down the essence of your work to the classroom and teaching in the entire country, which is in the process of developing various professional practices. It helps students who are beginning to ask a whole lot of questions.
The significance of the prize lies in the fact that it nudges the students and practitioners to compare various role models available around them. Just as we look forward to a good movie, a good book, a good piece of music, so is the case with architecture. We should be able to look forward to something that will add meaning to our existence. The indirect benefits of a prize such as this are immense, and it does not benefit just me, but an entire profession, an entire country.
What is your take on the construction frenzy in India for the past two decades, which has given rise to a huge number of glass buildings in the country? How suitable is glass in a hot, tropical country like India?
It is an inevitable process. It is not about whether you like it or not, whether I like it or not.