Yesterday I was a judge of the Pritzker Prize and we made the choice… it was extremely interesting, the number of Indian architects and Southern American architects …" Richard Rogers, the British-Italian architect and 2007 Pritzker Laureate, dropped a bomb in an interview leading up to the Pritzker Architecture Prize last year. It led to speculation about the pool of Indian architects he was referring to, which by all considerations, was a wading pool.
What are India’s chances? It is a question to consider within a larger subset of inquiries: Will the Pritzker Prize continue to move away from starchitects who prioritize aesthetics? Will it continue to value work that addresses pressing social issues such as urban density and low-income housing? Will a premium be placed on sustainability?
Doshi’s Pritzker citation highlights his awareness of the context in which his buildings are located and makes specific call-outs to his Aranya Low-Cost Housing in Indore (1989) and the Co-Operative Middle Income Housing in Ahmedabad (1982).
Being the “poor man’s architect" worked in his favour. However, there are fewer opportunities for Indian architects practising today to conceive and build projects such as those in Doshi’s portfolio. While the present cohort might talk sustainability and socialism in theory, and exhibit their ideas in international biennales, the commissions coming their way are largely elitist. For who can afford serene water pools and open roofs without paying significantly for housekeeping and security? Even when pressed, very few names come up as potential contenders within the Indian industry apart from Jain. Many, however, dream of a posthumous honour for Charles Correa. All things considered, an Indian might win, but it is likely to be in a cycle of four to five years.
The prize’s move away from self-conscious extravagance to a social mindedness—Frank Gehry and Zaha Hadid are past winners—certainly fits with the current zeitgeist. It is not too dissimilar from the multiple nominations that Black Panther and its message of Afrofuturism received at the Oscars this year. But how does that serve architecture as a whole?