“My works are an extension of my life, philosophy, and dreams, trying to create a treasury of the architectural spirit. My belief is that life celebrates when lifestyle and architecture fuse.” A man with a deep sense of responsibility and commitment to improving people’s lives, Indian-born architect Balkrishna Vithaldas Doshi has died at the age of 95. Doshi devoted his life to architecture and teaching, and left a lasting mark on the development of 20th and 21st century architecture like few others. For having demonstrated “the art of architecture” and “an invaluable service to humanity,” in 2018 he was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize, an acknowledgment of his more than one hundred projects that express these values. In 2022, he also received the Riba Gold Medal, a tribute to his pioneering work in combining modernism and the vernacular tradition as well as his visionary approach to urban planning, social housing, and education, which influenced the direction of architecture in India and neighboring areas.
Born in Pune, India, in 1927, Doshi was a contemporary of Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn, both of whom influenced his work, especially during his early career. Doshi, however, soon developed his own personal language, based in particular on his deep knowledge and love of the culture, traditions, and craftsmanship of his country. His architecture, therefore, was never overstated or beholden to trends. On the contrary, it was always responsible and authentic. His projects are an expression of his own free spirit. Free of ideologies, they are imbued with a pragmatism that expresses regionality and the nature of place.
In 1956, Doshi founded his own practice, Vastushilpa, which later evolved into the site of one of his most important projects, namely the Sangath school in Ahmedabad. It was here that over time he merged tradition and constant evolution. It was also here that, as he said many times, “one learns, unlearns and relearns. It has become a sanctuary of culture, art, and sustainability, where research, institutional facilities, and maximum sustainability are emphasized.”
Among the many projects he designed there are public, educational, and cultural buildings. These include the Shreyas Comprehensive School Campus in Ahmedabad; the Atira Guest House in the same city, built using local bricks; the Institute of Indology, which conserves documents and manuscripts; the Ahmedabad School of Architecture, renamed CEPT University in 2002, distinguished by its collaborative learning spaces and workshops; Tagore Hall & Memorial Theatre; and Amdavad Ni Gufa, an underground, cave-like exhibition facility designed to display the works of artist Maqbool Fida Husain. Seen as a whole, these projects represent a unique juxtaposition of art and architecture.
“It was like coming home, although I hadn’t been to India many times,” says Martha Thorn, talking about one of her last trips to India just before the outbreak of the pandemic. “Doshi and his family hugged me, took care of me, showed me around, and, simply by being themselves, surrounded me with love as if I were a family member. His generosity of spirit was present in everything Doshi did. His great respect and faith in people were evident in his approach to architecture and life. He will be missed, but he will live on forever through the many lives he touched. He showed us all the great power of the heart, which guides the mind and the hands.”
“Professor Doshi’s work reflects his search for a modern architecture rooted in the Indian context. He shaped the direction of architecture with both his practice and teaching. The CEPT University School of Architecture building is one of the best examples not only of his approach to architecture, but also of the great tradition of modern architecture in India. All of us at CEPT University, including myself, are deeply saddened by his passing,” says Bimal Patel, university president.
Individual photo credits are included in each gallery image