by Meghna MehtaDec 12, 2020
Balkrishna Doshi: Architecture for the People is the first retrospective of the work of architect, urbanist, educator and 2018 Pritzker Prize laureate Balkrishna Doshi in USA. The exhibition on BV Doshi's work opened on September 9, 2020, at the Wrightwood 659 gallery in Chicago, which was recently restored by Tadao Ando. As Knowledge Partner, STIR presents an exclusive 35-minute virtual tour of the exhibition Balkrishna Doshi: Architecture for the People, curated by Khushnu Panthaki Hoof in association with the Vitra Design Museum.
The walkthrough allows viewers to experience the nuances of Doshi's journey and works through sketches, drawings, life-size and scaled models and photographs as presented in the gallery. His works, which span across housing development, city planning, and institutions among public and private sectors, personified modern architecture in India. The works have been divided into four categories - Shaping an Integrated Education, Building Academic Institutions, Creating a Liveable City, and Home and Identity.
The first section - Shaping an Integrated Education - talks about Doshi's search to promote interdisciplinary exchange and encourage learning both inside and outside the classroom through works such as the School of Architecture, Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT) campus, the Amdavad Ni Gufa in Ahmedabad, among others. The second section - Building Academic Institutions - throws light on the idea that architecture must remain open-ended and ambiguous through designing for spontaneity, communication, and flexibility. Projects such as the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore; and the architect's own Sangath studio have been presented here. The next section - Creating a Livable City - portrays Doshi’s deep concern towards improving people’s everyday lives and how that has shaped his urban planning projects such as the Premabhai Hall and the Bhadra Precinct, the Institute of Indology in Ahmedabad and many others. The last section - Home and Identity - reveals the nuances of Indian culture and how it is integral to architecture where his own house, the Kamala House, the Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) Housing in Ahmedabad, and the Aranya Low Cost housing in Indore have been showcased.
Born into a traditional Hindu family in 1927, in Pune, India, Doshi grew up in times of the Indian independence movement championed by leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore. He began his studies in architecture in 1947, the year India gained independence, at the Sir JJ College of Architecture in Bombay (now Mumbai). In the 1950s, he boarded a ship to London, where he hoped to join the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), and eventually moved to Paris to work under Le Corbusier. Doshi’s association with Le Corbusier, and later Louis Kahn, lasted over a decade and familiarised the then young architect with the vocabulary of modernist architecture, with a special emphasis on elemental forms and building materials.
In 1956, Doshi started his own practice in Ahmedabad and called it Vastu Shilpa (in Sanskrit, 'Vastu' describes the total environment around us, 'Shilpa' means to design). In 1962, at the age of 35, he founded the School of Architecture at the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT), in Ahmedabad. In 1978, Doshi established the Vastu Shilpa for Studies and Research in Environmental Design with the aim of developing indigenous design and planning standards for built environments appropriate to the society, culture, and natural environment of India.
With over a half a century of practice, research, and teaching, Doshi has been acclaimed for his visionary work in low-cost housing and city planning, as well as for his strong commitment to education. As the Pritzker Prize announcement stated, Doshi’s "work in architecture to affect humanity is deeply personal, responsive, and meaningful". With a focus on 20 of Doshi’s most significant projects dating from 1958 to 2014, the exhibition demonstrates his lifelong dedication to architecture as a civic practice devoted to improving lives.
Other than the prestigious Pritzker Prize, Doshi is the recipient of numerous awards and distinctions, including the Global Award for Lifetime Achievement for Sustainable Architecture, the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, and the Gold Medal of the Academy of Architecture of France, among others. He is a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, the Indian Institute of Architects, and the Institut Français d’Architecture, and an Honorary Fellow of the American Institute of Architects. In 2018, he became the first Indian architect to be awarded the Pritzker Prize.
The exhibition programs have had various conversations including one about his association with world renowned artist MF Hussain and are soon to have a rare conversation with Israeli-Canadian architect Moshe Safdie, called 'Livable Cities' on December 3, 2020. For more details please visit the Wrightwood 659 official website here.
The gallery has been temporarily closed as per government orders due to a surge in COVID cases in Illinois.