Mastery and Mentorship: a conversation with Balkrishna Doshi and Khushnu Hoof

STIR X Wrightwood659 present an exclusive conversation with Pritzker Prize Laureate BV Doshi and the curator of the ongoing retrospective at the Wrightwood 659 gallery, USA.

by Meghna MehtaPublished on : Dec 12, 2020

What makes a master and what makes a great guide? The exhibition, Balkrishna Doshi: Architecture for the People, reflects on the life and works of the first Indian to receive the Pritzker Prize. As Knowledge Partner with the hosting gallery, Wrightwood 659, Chicago, USA, STIR presents an exclusive video discourse with the veteran architect himself and the curator of the exhibition, Khushnu Panthaki Hoof, both from Ahmedabad, India in conversation with the curatorial consultant for Wrightwood 659, Gina Pollara, based in New York, USA.

BV Doshi and Khushnu Hoof from Ahmedabad, India, in conversation with Gina Pollara, Curatorial Consultant, Wrightwood 659 from New York, USA | Balkrishna Doshi Architecture for the People | Wrightwood 659| STIRworld
BV Doshi and Khushnu Hoof from Ahmedabad, India, during the conversation Image: Courtesy of STIR

The conversation observes Doshi throwing light on the ideologies that have been at the centre of his work. “Architecture is a celebration of life,” he reiterates, with thoughtful reminders of humility sprinkled along in a refreshing juxtaposition of spontaneity and seasoned wisdom. Hoof, aside from being the curator of the exhibition touring six locations, is also Doshi’s grand-daughter and a partner at the Vastushilpa Foundation. She shares stories of her childhood and how she came about realising the ‘search’ that reflects in Doshi’s works. Hoof further points out that the selection of the works in the exhibition showcase projects that are ‘constantly growing’. Together they share light-hearted anecdotes, telling us that the exhibition surrounds the idea of what became the curatorial note that Doshi penned down, enlarged and put up in the studio: “This is not an exhibition of an architect – but an exhibition of an artist who sees all the stages of a place, building, at one glance,” and “Life celebrates when lifestyle and architecture fuse.”

Curatorial note written by Balkrishna Doshi when the exhibition was being curated  | Balkrishna Doshi Architecture for the People | Wrightwood 659| STIRworld
Curatorial note written by Balkrishna Doshi Image: Courtesy of Vastushilpa Foundation Archives

In conversation with Doshi and Hoof, Pollara, who holds a B.Arch. from the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, poses many thoughts and questions that were noted by the visitors including students. Pollara further shares her own interaction with Louis I. Kahn’s work, having been associated with the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park from 2006 to 2013 and overseen the construction of the memorial designed by Kahn.

Gina Pollara, Curatorial Consultant, Wrightwood 659| Balkrishna Doshi Architecture for the People | Wrightwood 659| STIRworld
Gina Pollara, Curatorial Consultant, Wrightwood 659, in conversation with BV Doshi and Khushnu Hoof Image: Courtesy of STIR

The conversation delves into the impact and discourse created by Doshi's ideologies and also presents an interesting analogy that relates his work to various genres of Hindustani classical music. Doshi, an educator, also shares advice for students and future architects. “If I practice, (I think about) what am I going to learn more and what will excite me more. Can we get excited, can we feel the unknown, the intangible, the ephemeral?”

Balkrishna Doshi at his studio in Sangath, Ahmedabad, India | Balkrishna Doshi Architecture for the People | Wrightwood 659| STIRworld
Balkrishna Doshi at his studio in Sangath, Ahmedabad, India Image: Courtesy of Vastushilpa Foundation Archives

The conversation was conducted via virtual video conferencing and designed by STIR. The exhibition is a project of the Vitra Design Museum & Wüstenrot Stiftung in collaboration with Vastushilpa Foundation. Currently in its sixth edition, the exhibition has travelled across the world beginning its journey in 2014 at the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi, further travelling to the Power Station of Art in Shanghai, China in 2017.

Exhibition at Architekturzentrum Wien, Austria | Balkrishna Doshi Architecture for the People | Wrightwood 659| STIRworld
Exhibition at Architekturzentrum Wien, Austria Image: Lisa Rastl, Courtesy of Architekturzentrum Wien

After Doshi was honoured with the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2018, the exhibition then travelled to the Vitra Design Museum in Rhein, Germany, Architecture Museum in Munich and most recently at Architekturzentrum Wien in Austria in 2020 before being presented for the first time in the USA at the Wrightwood 659 gallery.

Installation view, Balkrishna Doshi: Architecture for the People, Wrightwood 659, Chicago, USA | Balkrishna Doshi Architecture for the People | Wrightwood 659| STIRworld
Installation view, Balkrishna Doshi: Architecture for the People, Wrightwood 659, Chicago, USA Image: Michael Tropea © 2020 Alphawood Exhibitions LLC.

Wrightwood 659 has also curated other programs surrounding the exhibition, including discussions about his association with world renowned artist M. F. Hussain and Livable cities; a rare conversation with Israeli-Canadian architect Moshe Safdie. For more details, visit the Wrightwood 659 official website here.

Watch the virtual walkthrough of the exhibition here.

Read the interview with curator Khushnu Panthaki Hoof here.

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