New York (AFP) – Indian architect Balkrishna Doshi, a pioneer of low-cost housing design, won the prestigious Pritzker Prize on Wednesday, considered architecture’s Nobel equivalent.
The 90-year-old Doshi — one of the last living architects to have apprenticed with the Franco-Swiss trailblazer Le Corbusier — distinguished his work by committing to sustainable architecture and inexpensive housing, bringing modernist design to an India still rooted in traditionalism.
He is the 45th Pritzker laureate and the first from India.
“Balkrishna Doshi has always created an architecture that is serious, never flashy or a follower of trends,” said the Pritzker jury, which said Doshi “has continually exhibited the objectives” of architecture’s highest honor.
“Balkrishna Doshi constantly demonstrates that all good architecture and urban planning must not only unite purpose and structure but must take into account climate, site, technique, and craft, along with a deep understanding and appreciation of the context in the broadest sense,” the jury said.
“Projects must go beyond the functional to connect with the human spirit through poetic and philosophical underpinnings.”
Exhibiting an aptitude for art and an acute sense of proportion at a young age, Doshi began studying architecture in 1947, the year India gained independence.
Working under Le Corbusier, he returned to his native country in 1954 to oversee two of his Modernist guru’s projects in Chandigarh and Ahmedabad. The Indian architect also collaborated with Louis Kahn, another of the 20th century’s Modernist giants.
His accomplishments include everything from working on the Indian Institute of Management to designing the Aranya Low Cost Housing bloc in the city of Indore, completed in 1989 in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.
The intricate labyrinth of houses, courtyards and internal trails today houses some 80,000 low- and middle-class people, with more than 6,500 units ranging from modest one-bedrooms to spacious homes.
The international prize, established by Chicago’s Pritzker family in 1979, bestows laureates with $100,000 along with a bronze medallion.
“My works are an extension of my life, philosophy and dreams trying to create treasury of the architectural spirit,” Doshi said in a statement thanking the Pritzker jury, in which he also cited the influence of Le Corbusier.
“Every object around us, and nature itself — lights, sky, water and storm — everything is in a symphony,” said Doshi.
“This symphony is what architecture is all about.”