by Soumya MukerjiAug 26, 2021
The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) announced Indian architect, Balkrishna Doshi, as the recipient of the Royal Gold Medal 2022. Among one of the world’s highest honours for architecture, the medal is approved by Her Majesty The Queen. Having been conceived in 1848, the award is given to a person or group of people who have had a significant influence on the advancement of architecture. Doshi will be presented with the medal at a special ceremony in 2022.
On receiving the medal Doshi said in an official statement, “I am pleasantly surprised and deeply humbled to receive the Royal Gold Medal from the Queen of England. What a great honour! The news of this award brought back memories of my time working with Le Corbusier in 1953 when he had just received the news of getting the Royal Gold Medal. I vividly recollect his excitement to receive this honour from Her Majesty. He said to me metaphorically, 'I wonder how big and heavy this medal will be'. Today, six decades later I feel truly overwhelmed to be bestowed with the same award as my guru, Le Corbusier - honouring my six decades of practice. I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to my wife, my daughters and most importantly my team and collaborators at Sangath, my studio.”
Adding to his growing accolades, which includes the Pritzker Architecture Prize, the medal recognises Doshi’s 70-year career. With over 100 built projects, Doshi is considered to be one of the most influential modern Indian architects who defined the direction of architecture in India not only as an architect but as an educator as well. His buildings combine elements of modernism and vernacular architecture and range from administrative to cultural facilities, as well as housing developments and residential buildings. He is internationally known for his urban planning and social housing projects, as well as his work in education, both in India and as a visiting professor at universities around the world.
Simon Allford, RIBA President also commented, “It was an honour and a pleasure to chair the committee in selecting Balkrishna Doshi as the 2022 Royal Gold Medallist. At ninety-four years old he has influenced generations of architects through his delightfully purposeful architecture. Influenced by his time spent in the office of Le Corbusier, his work nevertheless is that of an original and independent thinker – able to undo, redo and evolve. In the twentieth century, when technology facilitated many architects to build independently of local climate and tradition, Balkrishna remained closely connected with his hinterland: its climate, technologies new and old and crafts. Balkrishna Doshi’s outstanding contribution to the art of architecture, the craft of construction and the practice of urban design establish him as a most deserving recipient of this award and I greatly look forward to him being presented with the medal next year.”
Hailing from Pune, India, Doshi famously worked with Corbusier as Senior Designer from 1951 to 1954 in Paris before moving back to India where he continued to supervise Corbusier’s projects in Ahmedabad. He went on to work with Louis Kahn as an associate to build the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, and they continued to collaborate for over a decade. He founded his practice, Vastushilpa in 1956 and set up the Centre for Environment Planning & Technology (CEPT) in Ahmedabad in 1962. Today Vastushilpa is a multi-disciplinary practice with ﬁve partners spanning three generations and has 60 employees.
The 2022 Royal Gold Medal selection committee, chaired by architect and RIBA President Simon Allford, comprised Sir David Adjaye OBE, architect and recipient of the 2021 Royal Gold Medal for Architecture; Alison Brooks, Principle and Creative Director of Alison Brooks Architects; Kate Cheyne, architect and Head of Leicester School of Art, Design and Architecture at De Montfort University and Dr Gus Casely-Hayford OBE, Professor of Practice at SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies in London and founding Director of V&A East). The committee gave an illustrious citation during their announcement.
An extract from it reads, “Through his [Doshi] teaching and his practice he has helped define the direction of architecture in India and much of the adjacent regions. But even more importantly his development of and advocacy for an architectural language of material economy and elegance and delight - is ever more relevant to all architects working in today’s challenging times. Doshi is a visionary constructor of ideas who works with form and light. He is also a constructor of an appropriate vernacular for and of the places in which he works. His many wonderful buildings celebrate the local technologies and crafts as well as the natural habitat to create environments that are legible, hard-working backdrops joyfully accommodating the theatre of everyday life. Once visited and studied it is soon apparent that they are also wonderful essays in the careful interplay of formal themes and technologies. Importantly building and nature are always intertwined to create a brave, confident and on occasion challenging architecture of purpose and delight. Architecture as background and foreground.”
As Doshi’s work and philosophy continue to be recognised globally, it is continuously revisited through various mediums. Doshi by Premjit and Bijoy Ramachandran is a film that explores the Gold Medalist work while Indian artist Dayanita Singh explored Doshi’s work through photography in the Portrait of a House. Wrightwood 659 presented a retrospective of his work with a 35-minute video tour showcasing his inspiring journey. STIR columnist Vladimir Belogolovsky also indulged in a conversation with Doshi , deciphering the term ‘architecture’ itself.