India’s ‘architect for the poor’ wins Pritzker Prize

India’s Balkrishna Doshi, center in blue, who won the 2018 Pritzker Architecture Prize celebrates the announcement with his family members at his home in Ahmedabad, India, on Wednesday. (AP)
Updated 08 March 2018
0

India’s ‘architect for the poor’ wins Pritzker Prize

BANGKOK: India’s Balkrishna Doshi, whose pared-back homes established his reputation as an architect for the poor, has been awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize, highlighting his sustainable, low-cost style in a rapidly modernizing country.
Doshi’s “solutions take into account the social, environmental and economic dimensions, and therefore his architecture is totally engaged with sustainability,” the prize jury said in a statement Wednesday.
He “constantly demonstrates that all good architecture and urban planning must not only unite purpose and structure but take into account climate, site, technique, and craft, along with a deep understanding and appreciation of context.”
Doshi, 90, is the first from India to win the $100,000 award, which was established by the Pritzker family in Chicago, and is considered the highest honor in architecture.
Born into a family that was in the furniture business for two generations, Doshi began his architecture studies in 1947, the year India gained independence from Britain.
After a stint in London, he returned to India and oversaw projects of the legendary architect Le Corbusier in Chandigarh and Ahmedabad. He also worked with the United States’ Louis Kahn, one of the world’s most revered architects.
“Infused with lessons from Western architects, he forged his artistic vision with a deep reverence for life, Eastern culture, and forces of nature to create an architecture that was personal,” the citation for the prize said.
“Alongside a deep respect for Indian history and culture, elements of his youth — memories of temples and bustling streets; scents of lacquer and wood from his grandfather’s furniture workshop — all find a way into his architecture.”
Doshi’s practice, Vastushilpa — later named Vastushilpa Foundation — has completed more than 100 projects including institutions, low-income housing projects, public spaces, galleries, and private homes.
“My works are an extension of my life, philosophy and dreams trying to create a treasury of the architectural spirit,” Doshi said in a statement in response to the announcement of the award.
Doshi’s commitment to sustainability and his holistic approach to urban design are particularly relevant now, as India urbanizes at a fast clip, said Rajeev Kathpalia, director of Vastushilpa Foundation.
At least six homes are destroyed and 30 people forcibly evicted each hour in India, with the government’s ‘Smart Cities’ projects responsible for most evictions, according to advocacy group Housing and Land Rights Network.
“His style is more relevant today than before, as a large number of people still need help with basic shelter,” Kathpalia told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“It is incumbent on the architect community to help them participate in the country’s transformation.”


Ear cleaners, roadside clerks: antiquated jobs thrive in Yangon

This photo taken on December 5, 2018 shows typist Aung Min working on a customer's document with his old typewriter along Pansodan Street in Yangon. (AFP)
Updated 16 December 2018
0

Ear cleaners, roadside clerks: antiquated jobs thrive in Yangon

  • Yangon’s growth — statistics show the population has nearly doubled since 1983 to reach 7.3 million — has left city services struggling to catch up

YANGON: Ear cleaners, roadside plumbers and typewriters for hire: just a sample of the antiquated jobs found on the pavements of Yangon’s Pansodan Street, where old-world businesses still find customers.
For years, tourists have been fascinated by odd trades in Yangon, from cycle trishaws swerving through traffic to roadside clerks going clickety-clack on typewriters.
Some professions have become victims of the political and economic reforms that started in earnest in 2011.
Iced water sellers melted away as improved power supplies made fridges viable; bus conductors lost out in the revamp of the city’s transportation network; and landline phone stalls are a relic in the mobile era.
But Pansodan, the beating heart of Myanmar’s biggest city, remains home to obscure professions and evokes nostalgia among those who have plied their trade for decades along the potholed pavements below aging colonial architecture.
“This is the street for the books, for the writers, for the poets. Everyone comes, everyone learns here,” Aung Soe Min, a long-time gallery owner on Pansodan, tells AFP.
“Everything you need to know, you can come to Pansodan.”
Built by the British and once called Phayre Street, the downtown artery runs south from the train station to the river, where traders arrive by morning ferry.

Yangon’s growth — statistics show the population has nearly doubled since 1983 to reach 7.3 million — has left city services struggling to catch up.
The annual monsoon season clogs decades-old plumbing networks and that is when Min Aung is busiest.
Sitting among plungers, pipes and a spare toilet lid serving as an advertisement for his services, the 58-year-old is a veteran of Yangon’s small army of streetside plumbers who still find work in the rapidly modernizing commercial capital.
“As long as there are toilets, there is work for us,” Min Aung tells AFP, puffing a cheroot as morning traffic whooshes by.
Close by is Khin Ohn Myint, 47, who provides quick manicures, fixes ingrown toenails and syringes ears to remove wax build-up.
“I didn’t have money to invest in other businesses, so I did this for a living,” she says, smiling.
Earning around $10 a day, she has put her children through university so they can pursue other careers.
She says she enjoys helping relieve people’s suffering and has even had to remove the occasional cockroach from a customer’s ear.
“Pansodan is a historic street for us,” she says as she digs out a piece of dirt from under a customer’s toenail.

The street is also famous for its pavement booksellers whose offerings include everything from 19th-century literary classics to tomes on Myanmar’s real estate laws and taboo subjects like the Rohingya crisis.
Its reputation as a place to read and access ideas gave it the nickname Pansodan University.
Tin Than has sold books here since 1980, but most of his competitors have shut shop.
“Now I only have around two or three customers each month,” he says.
The prime location has given him a front-row seat to historic events such as the 2007 “Saffron Revolution” when Buddhist monks staged a rare protest against the junta.
“When others started packing their books and closing their shops, I also had to close and run away. The riots happened right before my eyes.”
Aung Min was trained to use a typewriter in the military.
But he retired in 1980 and the 72-year-old has been working on Pansodan ever since.
“Computers were not so popular in the old days, so people had to rely on typewriters,” he said.
Based outside the High Court, Aung Min specializes in legal documents, from marriage certificates to notarised letters.
Although living costs have increased in the intervening years, he struggles to make more than 5,000 kyat ($3) a day — a sign that Myanmar’s transition is passing some people by.
He intends to keep working until he is 80 at least. “There were two or three typewriters on this street; we had our own customers,” he said.
“I am the only typewriter left here nowadays.”