Visionary architects design buildings which speak for themselves. From towering concrete pillars to sculptural modernist domes, the work of Balkrishna Vithaldas Doshi defined Indian architecture for the latter half of the 20th century. Known as B.V. Doshi, the acclaimed modernist architect—and first Indian winner of the Pritzker Prize—designed everything from accessible housing projects to the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore. Sadly, the luminary died on January 24, 2023, at the age of 95, leaving behind a fascinating legacy.
Born on August 26, 1927, in Pune, southeast of Mumbai, Doshi grew up with his father and grandfather, a furniture maker. As a child he came to appreciate how their house grew and changed. In 1947, shortly before Indian independence, he began architecture school. However, he never finished, a fact which he'd later point to in life as an advantage. He married his wife Kamala Parikh in 1955. When he passed, Doshi lived in a house he designed and named for his beloved wife. He is survived by three daughters, grandkids, and great-grandkids.
Doshi was influenced by the famous Swiss-French architect known as Le Corbusier. Doshi studied with him in Paris then returned to India to supervise the architect's work in Ahmedabad. In 1956, Doshi founded his own firm called Vastushilpa, meaning environmental design. He traveled the world lecturing at universities, worked with other famous architects, and even founded the Center for Environmental Planning and Technology (now CEPT University). He also designed his own studio as a series of bubble-like domes rising from the earth.
“We did not want to imitate someone else’s approach,” he told the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in 2018. “We wanted to find our own identity.” He drew from his pride in Indian culture to create a style distinct from Western designs. “I think of my buildings as my friends, my family,” he said. “I have a conversation with them, and that’s how I create niches and staircases and openings and gardens…my buildings are not pure and clear but designed to anticipate changes.”
Aside from his modern works, Doshi was dedicated to creating works to benefit the impoverished. He designed the Aranya Low Cost Housing project in Indore. The 6,500 residences accommodate a variety of economic realities. Doshi's work as an urban planner allowed him to touch many lives. The photographer Iwan Baan, who photographed some of Doshi’s works, described the artist as “the most approachable architect I know. Even very poor people in his public housing projects knew him and knew all about him…which is exceptional.”