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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)
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.”