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Balkrishna Doshi (photo courtesy of VSF)

Balkrishna Doshi, also known as B.V. Doshi, is the first Indian architect to receive the industry’s highest honor, the Pritzker Architecture Prize.

A designer, urban planner and educator, Doshi is known for his ethical and personal approach to architecture, which has touched the lives of various socio-economic classes over the past 70 years.

“Doshi’s architecture explores the relationships between fundamental needs of human life, connectivity to self and culture, and understanding of social traditions, within the context of a place and its environment, and through a response to Modernism. Childhood recollections, from the rhythms of the weather to the ringing of temple bells, inform his designs,” the Hyatt Foundation, which sponsors the annual Pritzer Prize, said in a statement.

“He describes architecture as an extension of the body, and his ability to attentively address function while regarding climate, landscape, and urbanization is demonstrated through his choice of materials, overlapping spaces, and utilization of natural and harmonizing elements.”

Born in Pune, India, Doshi first studied architecture at the Sir J. J. School of Architecture Bombay. He later moved to London and then Paris where, despite his inability to speak French, worked under Le Corbusier.

He returned to India in 1954 to oversee Le Corbusier’s projects in Chandigarh and Ahmedabad, and in 1956, founded his own practice, Vastushilpa.

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Aranya Low Cost Housing (photo courtesy of VSF)

One of the architect’s most notable designs is the Aranya Low Cost Housing project, completed in 1988. Accommodating over 80,000 low and middle-income residents today, the project is a system of houses, courtyards and a labyrinth of internal pathways. Residential layouts span from modest one-room units to spacious homes.  

The city of Indore, where the project is located, was facing a housing shortage in the early 1980s. According to Architecture in Development, the development allowed owners to choose any material for the construction and decoration of their homes. Meanwhile, the internal streets and squares in the ‘Economically Weaker Section’ were stone-paved, reducing cost and maintenance.

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Aranya Low Cost Housing (photo courtesy of VSF)                                                                                                  

Indore’s climate was also carefully considered in the design of the project. The longer façade is oriented to the north and south, reducing solar radiation during the hot summer months. At the same time, the north and south opens up to allow in natural light and cross ventilation. Buildings and trees provide shade to public spaces such as courtyards and cul-de-sacs.

In a country where slums continue to be prevalent, Doshi succeeded in showing that public housing design can be dignified.

“They are not houses but homes where a happy community lives,” he once said. “That is what finally matters.”

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Aranya Low Cost Housing: Overlapping layers and transitional areas encourage fluid and adaptable living conditions, customary in Indian society Housing (photo courtesy of VSF).

Another holistically sustainable and inspiring project is Sangath, which means ‘moving together’. Located in Ahmedabad, the architect’s studio features a series of communal spaces, including a garden and outdoor amphitheatre, which highlight his regard for collaboration and social responsibility.

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 Sangath Architect’s Studio (photos courtesy of VSF)

The building’s overall form mimics the details of nature, with rolling mounds, terraced land and reflective surfaces. Storm water is funneled through the site via vaults and water troughs.

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Sangath Architect’s Studio: Vaulted roofs, porcelain mosaic tile coverings, grassy areas, and sunken spaces mitigate extreme heat  (photo courtesy of VSF).

“Every object around us, and nature itself—lights, sky, water and storm—everything is in a symphony,” Doshi explains. “And this symphony is what architecture is all about.

“My work is the story of my life, continuously evolving, changing and searching…searching to take away the role of architecture, and look only at life.”

Doshi is the 45th Pritzker Prize Laureate, and will present a public lecture, in partnership with the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design at the University of Toronto on May 16, 2018.

For more information, click here.

About the Awards

The Sustainability Awards is Australia’s longest running and most prestigious awards program dedicated to acknowledging and celebrating excellence in sustainable design and architecture. Nominations received are shortlisted and then winners for each category are announced at a five-star Gala evening hosted this year at the Star, Sydney on 11 October 2018. The daytime event Sustainability Live is a CPD-endorsed education event where industry experts present a range of topics to educate, inform and ignite learning. Buy tickets.