In Memoriam: Balkrishna Doshi, 1927-2023

Balkrishna Doshi, architect and recipient of the Pritzker Prize and  the RIBA Royal Gold Medal, has died at the age of 95.

By Sanyam Bahga – Own work, via Wikimedia Commons

As an architect, urban planner, and educator, Balkrishna’s craft significantly impacted the architecture throughout India. His body of work, influenced by Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, known as Le Corbusier, and Louis Khan, examines the relationship between built environments and social traditions.

In 2018, Balkrishina became the first Indian architect to receive the Pritzker Prize: “Doshi described architecture as an extension of the body, addressing function while regarding climate, landscape, and urbanization through his choice of materials, overlapping spaces, and utilization of natural and harmonizing elements,” says the Pritzker Prize.

With a 70 year career and over 100 built projects, the revered architect was also awarded the RIBA Royal Gold Medal. Born in Pune, India, in 1927, Balkrishna worked under Le Corbusier in Paris in the 1950s before returning to India to oversee his projects. He went on to establish his own firm, Vastushilpa, which means environmental design, in Ahmedabad in 1956.

Although Balrishna never finished architecture school, he founded a school of architecture in Ahmedabad, and taught there for nearly half a century.

His legacy includes buildings, such as the Shreyas Comprehensive School Campus (1958-63), Ahmedabad, India; Atira Guest House (1958), Ahmedabad, low cost housing; the Institute of Indology (1962), Ahmedabad, a building to house rare documents; Ahmedabad School of Architecture (1966, with additions until 2012)  – renamed CEPT University in 2002 –  which focused on creating spaces that promoted collaborative learning; Tagore Hall & Memorial Theatre (1967), a 700 seat Brutalist auditorium in Ahmedabad; Premabhai Hall (1976), Ahmedabad, India, former theatre and auditorium.

Doshi is survived by his wife, Kamala Parikh; daughters, Tejal Panthaki, Radhika Kathpalia and Maneesha Akkitham; five grandchildren; and two great-granddaughters.

H Masud Taj, Adjunct Professor of Architecture, Ottawa, is a protégé of Master Calligrapher David Hosbrough. His calligraphy has featured in group and solo shows in Mumbai and Ottawa. Both his books with calligraphic plates: Nari Gandhi: Apprentice to Frank Lloyd Wright (2009) and Embassy of Liminal Spaces (2013) have been archived in Macodrum Library Archives and Research Collections SPC, Carleton University. In 2016, the Embassy of Liminal Spaces was permanently installed in the Canadian Chancery in Bangalore, India and also inducted into the Library of Parliament, Canada.