Balkrishna Doshi Wins Royal Gold Medal

John Hill
10. December 2021
Photo: Pratik Gajjar

Balkrishna Doshi's name is a familiar one, even to non-architects, now that he has won both the Pritzker Architecture Prize, in 2018, and the Royal Gold Medal, two of the most prestigious architecture awards on the international scene. Just as he was the first to do so with the Pritzker, Doshi is the first Indian architect to win the Royal Gold Medal.

Born in 1927 in Pune, India, Doshi is nearly 40 years older than last year's recipient, Sir David Adjaye. Regardless, the 2022 RIBA Honors Committee points out in its citation on Doshi that the nonagenarian "works every day and remains as prolific as he is inspirational." Furthermore, they describe him as "a living testament to the potential of an architectural history of ideas, passed through practice and education from one generation to the next."

Sangath Architect's Studio (Photo © VSF)

Doshi famously worked for Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn on their projects in India in the 1950s and 60s, forming his own studio, Vastushilpa, in Ahmedabad in 1956. To the RIBA Honors Committee, Doshi "has helped define the direction of architecture in India and much of the adjacent regions" through his teaching as well as his "advocacy for an architectural language of material economy and elegance and delight." (emphasis in original) 

From more than 100 buildings completed over six decades of practice, notable projects singled out in yesterday's announcement include Ahmedabad School of Architecture (now CEPT University; 1966, with additions until 2012), Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore (1977–1992), Sangath Architect's Studio (1981), Aranya Low Cost Housing (1989), and Amdavad ni Gufa (1994).

Indian Institute of Management (Photo © VSF)

On hearing the news of his Royal Gold Medal, which is approved personally by Her Majesty The Queen, Doshi said in a statement: 
"What a great honor! The news of this award brought back memories of my time working with Le Corbusier in 1953 when he had just received the news of getting the Royal Gold Medal. I vividly recollect his excitement to receive this honor from Her Majesty. He said to me metaphorically, ‘I wonder how big and heavy this medal will be.’  Today, six decades later I feel truly overwhelmed to be bestowed with the same award as my guru, Le Corbusier — honoring my six decades of practice."

Amdavad ni Gufa (Photo © VSF)

RIBA President Simon Allford said of Doshi in a statement: 
"At ninety-four years old he has influenced generations of architects through his delightfully purposeful architecture. Influenced by his time spent in the office of Le Corbusier his work nevertheless is that of an original and independent thinker — able to undo, redo and evolve. In the twentieth century, when technology facilitated many architects to build independently of local climate and tradition, Balkrishna remained closely connected with his hinterland: it’s climate, technologies new and old and crafts."

Doshi will receive the 2022 Royal Gold Medal at a special ceremony next year.

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