Balkrishna V.Doshi

Architect, India
Balkrishna V.Doshi belongs to the generation of architects that commenced working
soon after India’s independence in 1947. Influenced by the thinkers of the independence
movement, Doshi’s career is devoted to establishing an identity for the contemporary
Indian architecture, and he has accomplished this by rooting his work in the regional
context, marrying his designs with the local environment, and building on India’s rich
architectural and building traditions.
Born in 1927 in Poona (Pune), a city near Bombay (Mumbai), Doshi was raised in a
religious family that was engaged in the traditional carpentry business. Observing his
drawing skills, his art teacher encouraged him to pursue architectural education. In 1947,
Doshi joined the J.J. School of Art in Bombay; unhappy with the course of studies, he
quit the program in 1950 and decided to go to London, where he met Le Corbusier at
CIAM (Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne). Following that meeting, Doshi
moved to Paris to work with Le Corbusier, who at that time was designing the city of
Chandigarh and other large Indian commissions as well as his influential European
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projects, such as La Tourette and Jaoul House. Profoundly influenced by Le Corbusier’s
work, Doshi returned to India in 1955 to look after the master’s projects in Chandigarh
and in Ahmedabad, where he also chose to settle.
The first decade of Doshi’s work was strongly influenced by the work of Le
Corbusier, including key projects from this era, such as the low-cost housing for the
workers of the Ahmedabad Textile Industry Research Association (ATIRA) and the
Physical Research Laboratory (PRL; 1957) in Ahmedabad and the Institute of Indology
(1957), also in Ahmedabad. The Institute of Indology is an exposed-concrete structure
with sun breakers and large overhangs or “parasols,” devices used by Le Corbusier in his
Indian buildings. However, in this project Doshi also managed to make a regional
architectural statement. The building is subdivided into small units and looks like it could
have been built using wooden post-and-beam elements. Large verandas and natural
cooling and ventilation also remind us of the traditional wooden havalies , half-timber courtyard
dwellings of Guajart. Moreover, the refined proportions, fine workmanship, and elegant
finishes of the Indology Institute make it more delicate compared to Le Corbusier’s béton bru t
style of Indian projects.
The second phase of Doshi’s practice was tempered by the work of the great American
architect Louis I.Kahn. Doshi invited Kahn to design the facilities for the Indian Institute
of Management (IIM) complex in Ahmedabad. From the beginning of 1960s until the
sudden death of Kahn in 1974, Doshi and he remained close friends and associates. This
relationship touched Doshi’s work in several ways: his use and choice of materials
became refined, the play of geometry in his buildings got richer, and buildings started to
demonstrate great depth and concern for light and shade and spirituality, all hallmarks of
Kahn’s work. Some key buildings from this phase of Doshi’s work include the Township
(1964) for Gujarat State Fertilizers in Baroda (Vadodra), the School of Architecture
(1966, first phase) in Ahmedabad, the Township (1968) for the Electronics Corporation
of India in Hyderabad, and the Parikh Residence (1974) in Ahmedabad. Kahn’s design
influence is evident in two township projects in which Doshi employed simple but
efficient load-bearing wall structures and clean geometry to organize unit plans and to
control the entry of light into each dwelling. Doshi’s School of Architecture building,
with its heavy load-bearing brick walls and industrial north lighting, also closely
resembles Kahn’s IIM complex, its dormitory and classroom areas in particular.
Doshi’s active involvement in education coincides with his second phase of practice.
In 1962, he and several colleagues established the Ahmedabad School of Architecture,
which has become the Center of Environmental Planning and Technology, comprised of
schools of planning, interior design, and building construction and a visual arts center.
Doshi is also the founder and director of the Vastu-Shilpa Foundation, a nonprofit group
for studies and research in environmental design. Doshi has regularly served as a visiting
professor at most leading American and European universities, inspiring a new
generation of designers and planers.
The last 25 years of Doshi’s architectural work has been the most exuberant, and no
doubt the richest, phase of his work. This architecture owes little to his mentors and more
to the cultural and building traditions of India. Projects from this time blend beautifully
with their surroundings and, more important, convey a sense that they are somehow
Indian. Important projects from this phase are the Indian Institute of Management (1977)
in Bangalore; the Administrative Complex (1979) for the Madhya Pradesh Electricity
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Board in Jabalpur; Sangath (1979), the architect’s own office, in Ahmedabad; the Gandhi
Labor Institute (1980) in Ahmedabad; Aranya low-cost housing (1983) in Indore; and the
Diamond Bourse (1994) in Bombay (Mumbai).
Aranya is truly a model housing project for a developing nation such as India. A 6500-
plot development, 65 percent of which is reserved for very poor clients, Aranya is
inspired by the traditional lifestyle and patterns of living observed in low-income
neighborhoods. To maintain marketability of high-income plots and to avoid segregation,
each income groups’ plots are configured around a sophisticated arrangement of plots and
public open spaces in concentric rings in six distinct sectors. Large open spaces are
avoided, but that space is evenly distributed in small parcels to accommodate various
cottage industries and the spillover of home-based income generation. The principles of
Doshi’s recent architectural projects are also uniquely inspiring. Architecture is not
entirely form related but is ordered by simple principles, such as the systemic collection
and shedding of rainwater in the design of Sangath and the Gandhi Labor Institute and
the apparently irregular fanning of the towers to maximize natural lighting in the offices
of the Diamond Bourse. The use of simple design parti allows Doshi to compose his
buildings as a loose approximation of traditional places and to build them in harmony
with the climate, culture, and construction practices of India, making his projects
captivating and memorable.

Sangath, (1979) view of the vaulted
and flatroof buildings around the
terraced court, Ahmedabad, India

Born in Poona, India, 26 August 1927. Attended Fergusson College, Poona 1946; studied
at the J.J. School of Art, Bombay 1946–50. Married Kamala Parikh 1955:3 children.
Senior designer with Le Corbusier, Paris, for major buildings in Chandigarh and
Ahmedabad, India 1951–57; represented Le Corbusier and supervised his projects in
Ahmedabad 1954–57. Private practice, Ahmedabad from 1956; practiced under the firm
name of Vastu-Shilpa 1956–77; member, Advisory Board, Architecture +Urbanism, Tokyo from 1971; senior
partner, Stein, Doshi, and Bhalla, Ahmedabad and New Delhi from 1977. Visiting
professor, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri 1958, 1960, 1964, 1967, 1977,
1980; visiting professor, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia 1964, 1967, 1968,
1977, 1982, 1984; visiting professor, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign 1977;
visiting professor, Rice University, Houston, Texas 1977; Paul Philippe Cret Professor of
Architecture, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia 1984; distinguished professor,
School of Architecture and School of Planning, Ahmedabad 1987; visiting professor,
Berlage Institute, Amsterdam, the Netherlands 1991. Founder and honorary director,
School of Architecture, Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology, Ahmedabad
1962–72; founder and honorary director, honorary dean, School of Planning, Centre for
Environmental Planning and Technology, Ahmedabad 1972–78; founder and director,
Vastu-Shilpa Foundation for Studies and Research in-Environmental Design from 1978;
dean emeritus, Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology, Ahmedabad from
1981; founder and honorary director, Kanoria Centre for the Arts, Ahmedabad from
1984. Member, Team X 1967–71; fellow, Indian Institute of Architects 1971; fellow,
Royal Institute of British Architects 1971; honorary fellow, American Institute of
Architects 1971; member, Building International, London 1972–76; vice president,
Council of Architecture, Government of India 1973–74; member, Scientific and
Technical Advisory Council, Kent State University, Ohio from 1975; member, steering
committee, 1998 Aga Khan Awards for Architecture. Aga Khan Award for Architecture
Selected Works
Low-cost housing for workers of the Ahmedabad Textile Industry Research Association
(ATIRA), Ahmedabad, 1957
Physical Research Laboratory (PRL housing), Ahmedabad, 1957
Institute of Indology, Ahmedabad, 1957
Science Faculty Buildings for Gujarat University, Ahmedabad, 1959
Township for Gujarat State Fertilizers, Baroda (Vadodra), 1964
School of Architecture, Ahmedabad, 1966
Township for the Electronics Corporation of India, Hyderabad, 1968
Premabhai Hall, Ahmedabad, 1972
Parikh Residence, Ahmedabad, 1974
Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, 1977
Administrative, Laboratory, Dormitory and ancillary facilities for the International
Crop Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics, Hyderabad, 1977
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Administrative Complex for the Madhya Pradesh Electricity Board, Jabalpur, 1979
Sangath, architect’s own office, Ahmedabad, 1979
Gandhi Labor Institute, Ahmedabad, 1980
Aranya low-cost housing, Indore, 1983
Maharashtra Institute of Development Administration, Poona (Pune), 1987
National Institute of Fashion Technology, New Delhi, 1990
Diamond Bourse, Bombay (Mumbai), 1994

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