Pritzker Prize-Winner Balkrishna Doshi Reminds Us That “The Architect Is at the Service of Human Society”


Balkrishna Doshi named 2018 Pritzker Prize Laureate. Image Courtesy of VSF

Balkrishna Doshi named 2018 Pritzker Prize Laureate. Image Courtesy of VSF

Last Wednesday the world knew the name of the latest Pritzker Prize laureate: Balkrishna Doshi, the first Indian architect to receive architecture’s highest honor. The jury stated that “with an understanding and appreciation of the deep traditions of India’s architecture, Doshi united prefabrication and local craft and developed a vocabulary in harmony with the history, culture, local traditions and the changing times of his home country India”.

While architects all in India are rejoicing and celebrating him, Anupama Kundoo, Professor at IE School of Architecture and Design, shared her thoughts on Doshi’s Pritzker Prize. “It is timely that there is recognition of a holistic understanding of the role of the architect, where the design of the built environment is seen as sensitive interventions that retain human scale in the man-made built landscape”, stated Kundoo.


Le Corbusier and Balkrishna Doshi. Image Courtesy of Balkrishna Doshi

Le Corbusier and Balkrishna Doshi. Image Courtesy of Balkrishna Doshi

We are very happy to hear that Balkrishna Doshi has been chosen as this year’s Pritzker laureate. The timeless values that he represents personally and professionally, are exactly what needs to be globally acknowledged as architectural best practice. 

At a time where architecture is being reduced to seductive building forms and photogenic facades that are air-dropped into diverse contexts, regardless of their complex local cultural or climatic context, where over-simplified computer-generated renderings and often frivolous play of forms are becoming the norm, I hope that the Pritzker committee’s decision will bring the attention back to architecture’s real capacity to facilitate and create environments that are human society-centric.


Life Insurance Corporation Housing / Balkrishna Doshi. Image Courtesy of VSF

Life Insurance Corporation Housing / Balkrishna Doshi. Image Courtesy of VSF

It is timely that there is recognition of a holistic understanding of the role of the architect, where the design of the built environment is seen as sensitive interventions that retain human scale in the man-made built landscape, despite technological advances, so that industrial and machine-scale infrastructure solutions do not take over our daily lives, at the cost of neighborhood and community, leading to social segregation, loneliness, and unhealthy day to day experiences. 


Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore. Image © <a href='https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:IIM-B_016.jpg'>Wikimedia user Sanyam Bahga</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en'>CC BY-SA 3.0</a>

Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore. Image © <a href='https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:IIM-B_016.jpg'>Wikimedia user Sanyam Bahga</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en'>CC BY-SA 3.0</a>

Doshi’s body of works show that outstanding contemporary buildings can be expressions of deeper cultural values of a collective, that architecture is the synthesis of many complex concerns, and above all a backdrop for life to take place, where the architect is at the service of human society.


Amdavad ni Gufa, Ahmedabad. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu

Amdavad ni Gufa, Ahmedabad. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu

As an educator, and founder of CEPT, Doshi has inspired generations of students beyond the institution by having always welcomed students and practicing architects from the world over, to share experiences, collaborate and engage in the discussion of architecture, just as on a personal level his home has been equally open to all. Despite his success and fame, he has always been accessible and inclusive, and treated people regardless of age and experience at par.


Balkrishna V. Doshi with students at School of Architecture, CEPT , Ahmedabad, c . 1970s. Image via India: Modern Architectures in History by Peter Scriver, Amit Srivastava

Balkrishna V. Doshi with students at School of Architecture, CEPT , Ahmedabad, c . 1970s. Image via India: Modern Architectures in History by Peter Scriver, Amit Srivastava

He may be the eldest architect to have been honored with the Pritzker prize, but his spirit is probably the youngest. Those who have interacted with him will agree that his youth, curiosity and openness is inspirational. While architects all around me in India are rejoicing and celebrating him and the attention drawn to the universal values they see in him; I am glad that the global community will equally take the time to discover more about his work and legacy and perhaps rethink where contemporary architecture is headed.

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