“My journey has been rather unusual, unplanned and accidental,” Balkrishna Doshi started his lecture “Path Uncharted” by remembering his early days as a boy. Doshi was awarded the Pritzker Prize, the highest global honour for an architect and analogous to a Nobel for his contribution to architecture in Toronto on Friday. On that occasion, he was delivering a speech in which he spoke about his journey so far.
Doshi has vivid memory of his childhood, people who influenced him, lesons he learnt from them and how he incorporated those lessons in his works later on. Born in a family whose main profession was carpentry, Doshi found his first mentor in his Grandfather whose advice he remembers and follows even today. “Everything you see, feel, touch is living. Life is full of purpose and everything around is living”, those were the words told to Doshi by Grandfather when he was 11 years old but the impact of those words is visible in all his works even today.
Young Doshi neither dreamt of becoming an architect nor did he plan his career in that direction. His undivided family was engaged in carpentry and Doshi was fond of drawings. Somebody advised him to pursue architecture which he did. He went to England to do pursue Diploma at RIBA on the suggestion of his family friend. Even the meeting with Corbusier was accidental and never planned. He neither new his language nor had developed enough knowledge to work for him. Still Corbusier decided to take him. Perhaps he believed it is easier to mould a raw mind than experienced one. Doshi considers Corbusier as his first Guru after his Grandfather.
Corbusier had profound influence on the life and work of Doshi. It was through him that Doshi learnt meaning of space, structure, form and light in architecture. Corbusier while designing Chandigarh had studied the people, their living style, traditional style of structures and why aspect of them, God, temple, prayers, etc. Corbusier taught him the importance of climate in India. “Structure should take into account climatic condition in the country.” That was evident when Doshi designed Ahmedabad Textile Mills Association building, which had abundant scope for movement of air and light.
No wonder then Doshi is strong believer of the principle that one’s work should always be liveable, enjoyable and much more amenable to different choices of activities. This is what he learnt from his mentors which he practiced throughout his career spanning nearly seven decades. ‘When architecture becomes dynamic, it becomes habitat’, Doshi said in his lecture.
If today Doshi is considered as pioneer of affordable housing in India, it is all because of his upbringing, mentoring and the influence of some important people whom he had worked with. India is really fortunate to have an architect like BV Doshi.