Balkrishna Doshi, 1927–2023

John Hill
24. January 2023
Photo © Vastushilpa Foundation

B.V. Doshi, as he was better known, was considered India's most famous architect, if not also its most prolific and lasting, having established what is now called Vastushilpa Consultants (VSC) in 1956. Doshi broadened his reach with the founding of the Vastushilpa Foundation for Research and Studies in Environmental Design (VSF), a charitable trust linking architecture and academia, in 1978. By the time he was named the 45th laureate of the Pritzker Prize forty years later, Doshi was 90 years old and had been practicing for more than 60 years.

When Doshi won the Pritzer we mentioned that he was 40 years older than Alejandro Aravena when he became the 2016 laureate, which effectively turned Doshi's prize into a lifetime achievement award. As such, coverage of Doshi's Pritzker in 2018 served like career retrospectives, tracing his development from his years working with Le Corbusier in Paris (1951–54) and his return to India in 1955 to supervise Corbu's projects in Ahmedabad; the establishment of his studio one year later and the design of early, neo-Corbusian works, including the Institute of Indology; working with Louis Kahn on the Indian Institute of Management from 1962 onwards; the remarkable design of his studio, Sangath, built in 1981 as a resolution of Indian traditions and contemporary architecture; his decades of teaching and leading schools of architecture in India; and his humanitarian ethos on display in Aranya Low Cost Housing, which was built in 1989 and won him an Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 1995.

Sangath Architect's Studio (Drawing © VSF)

With today's news of Doshi's death, there has been a swift outpouring of appreciation over the architect's contributions to society through his buildings, foundation, teaching, and writings, as well as simply through the way he lived his life. The announcement on the Sangath and VSF Instagram channels, signed by Doshi's widow, Kamala and VSC partners and families, reads in part:

“No one loved life more than him, 'Anand Karo' - Celebrate Life as he would always say. Even though he is physically not with us anymore, we continue to feel his guidance and eternal presence. He was a light in this world, and now we need to continue shining his light by carrying it within us in our own lives.”

Martha Thorne, who was executive director of the Pritzker Architecture Prize when Doshi received his medal in 2018, wrote publicly on Facebook that “Doshi was family,” that on a trip to India soon before the pandemic, “Doshi and his family embraced me, cared for me, accompanied me, and just by being themselves, they surrounded me with love, as a close family member. This generosity of spirit was always present in everything that Doshi did. His great respect and faith in people were evident in his approach to architecture and to life.”

Architectural Digest India posted to Instagram that “this is a heartbreaking loss.” Describing Doshi as “a master wielder of form and light” as well as “a true inspiration to the people of this country,” they wrote that they will miss “his childlike enthusiasm, curiosity, and humility that touched us all so deeply.” 

Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, wrote on Twitter: “Dr. BV Doshi Ji was a brilliant architect and a remarkable institution builder. The coming generations will get glimpses of his greatness by admiring his rich work across India. His passing away is saddening. Condolences to his family and admirers. Om Shanti.” 

Born on August 26, 1927, in Pune, India, Balkrishna Vithaldas Doshi died on January 24, 2023, in Ahmedabad from age-related complications.

Our previous stories on B. V. Doshi:

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