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B V Doshi crafted tenet of architecture as living organism: Royal Institute

Institute president presents Doshi one of the world's highest honours for architecture the prestigious Royal Gold Medal 2022 in Ahmedabad

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architecture | B V Doshi

Vinay Umarji  |  Ahmedabad 

BV Doshi (left) with Simon Allford, president of the Royal Institute of British Architects
BV Doshi (left) with Simon Allford, president of the Royal Institute of British Architects

In a first, president of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Simon Allford presented renowned architect one of the world’s highest honours for the prestigious Royal Gold Medal 2022 here in person on Tuesday.

Doshi, 94, is the only one from India and among the rare people globally to have been awarded both the Royal Gold Medal and the Pritzker Prize, often referred to as the Nobel Prize of architecture, in their lifetime. Given in recognition of a lifetime’s work, the Royal Gold Medal is approved personally by Queen Elizabeth and is given to people who have had a significant influence on the advancement of with Doshi being announced as the 2022 winner earlier this year.

Talking about Doshi's selection as the winner of the prestigious medal, Allford said that the 2022 Honours Committee chaired by him recognized the former's legacy of promoting an open and generous architecture.

"I had the pleasure of chairing the committee and making the decision to recognize the extraordinary life and career as a teacher and architect of Mr Doshi. The particular contribution of Doshi is a legacy of teaching a generous and open architecture and also how he connects architecture to life. Even his model of formal education he created is about encouraging individuals to form their response to life. His model of architecture is a backdrop to the theatre of life," said Allford.

While presenting the medal to Doshi, Allford talked about the former's career spanning over 70 years and working with the greatest like Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn. "And now 70 years on, we have the pleasure to connect you to the history of your mentors, architecture and the future of architecture which you have always been interested in as an architecture educationist," he added.

Reminiscing about his childhood and his work with Corbusier, Doshi said that he became interested in architecture as a process rather than a product and was fascinated with the possibility of growth and community around housing.

"Normally, we design a building and that doesn't change but if you go to the old city area in Ahmedabad and other places, buildings have changed there over time and I am fascinated by that. And that is how I started school of architecture (now CEPT University) in 1962 in Ahmedabad. So my connection (with architecture) is not only as a professional but also as a teacher, as a practitioner and as somebody who is trying to understand how life and building go on. I was interested in social life around buildings and its impact on architectural education. So my entire life and career is because I was interested in how people live," said Doshi.

Apart from the Royal Gold Medal by RIBA and Pritzker Prize, Doshi has also been awarded the Padma Bhushan, the third-highest civilian award in India, in 2020, for his contribution to the field of architecture. Armed with three honorary doctorates by prestigious international universities including the latest from the Boston Architectural College, USA in 2021, Doshi is also the recipient of the French ‘Global Award for Lifetime Achievement for Sustainable Architecture’ by the Institut Francais d’architecture, Paris.

The 2022 Honours Committee that selected the Royal Gold Medallist was chaired by Allford and comprised architects Alison Brooks and last year’s Royal Gold Medal recipient Sir David Adjaye OBE, architect and academic Kate Cheyne, and cultural historian and museum director Dr Gus Casely-Hayford OBE.

Born in 1927 in Pune to an extended family of furniture makers, Doshi studied at the JJ School of Architecture, Bombay, before working for four years with Le Corbusier as Senior Designer (1951-54) in Paris and four more years in India to supervise projects in Ahmedabad. He worked with Louis Kahn as an associate to build the IIM, Ahmedabad, and they continued to collaborate for over a decade even as he founded his own practice, Vastushilpa in 1956 with two architects.

Some of Doshi's key projects include the Shreyas Comprehensive School Campus, Ahmedabad (1958-63); Atira Guest House, Ahmedabad(1958); The Institute of Indology, Ahmedabad (1962); Ahmedabad School of Architecture (1966 - renamed CEPT University in 2002); Tagore Hall & Memorial Theatre, Ahmedabad (1967); Premabhai Hall, Ahmedabad (1976); IIM Bangalore (1977-1992); Kanoria Centre for Arts, Ahmedabad (1984); Aranya Low Cost Housing, Indore (1989); and Amdavad ni Gufa (1994).

Meanwhile, Doshi rued about the fact that the present day architecture does not talk about people or residents but only about facilities while city planning and formation is also not conducive to local environment. "Architecture is about how life can be celebrated. If you can create for them a container in which life can be celebrated, then you have created a community," Doshi added.

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First Published: Tue, May 10 2022. 15:21 IST
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