Who is Balkrishna Doshi, the Indian in the news for receiving the Royal Gold Medal 2022, one of the world’s highest honours for architecture?
Aged 94, Doshi has built more than 100 projects in his 70-year career and influenced the direction of architecture in India and its adjacent regions through both his practice and his teaching, as noted by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), which announced the award.
For those who do not know, the Royal Gold Medal is approved personally by Queen Elizabeth II and is given in recognition of a lifetime’s work.
The many buildings to Doshi’s credit in India include administrative and cultural facilities, housing developments and residential buildings. He was also the first Indian architect to win the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2018.
According to RIBA, Doshi’s buildings combine pioneering modernism with vernacular, and are informed by a deep appreciation of the traditions of India’s architecture, climate, local culture and craft.
The most known are the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore, the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology in Ahmedabad, the city’s famous underground art gallery Amdavad Ni Gufa – a cave-like structure made in 1994 which has a roof made of interconnected domes, covered with a mosaic of tiles – and Indore’s Aranya low-cost housing project of 1989 which currently accommodates over 80,000 individuals. It won the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 1995.
He has also built Tagore Memorial Hall, Institute of Indology and Premabhai Hall, a private residence called Kamala House in Ahmedabad, and the Shreyas Comprehensive School Campus.
Born in Pune in 1927 to a family of furniture-makers, Doshi graduated from JJ School of Architecture in Bombay, and went on to work as senior designer for Le Corbusier in Paris and four more years in India to supervise projects in Ahmedabad. He also worked with Louis Kahn as an associate to build the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, and they continued to collaborate for over a decade. In 1956, he founded his own practice, Vastu Shilpa, with two architects.
His work in education, both in India and as a visiting professor at world universities, has also brought him much acclaim.
“I am pleasantly surprised and deeply humbled to receive the Royal Gold Medal from the Queen of England. What a great honour,” Doshi was quoted as saying in media reports on his award.
RIBA president Simon Allford reportedly said Doshi was “a most deserving recipient of this award” because he had “influenced generations of architects through his delightfully purposeful architecture”.
The award citation for Doshi says: “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.”
“Doshi, now in his nineties, works every day and remains as prolific as he is inspirational. A living testament to the potential of an architectural history of ideas, passed through practice and education from one generation to the next.”