Balkrishna Doshi, Indian Brutalist architect, 1927–2023

Balkrishna Doshi in 2013. Photo: Sanyam Bahga | CC BY-SA 3.0

Balkrishna Doshi, who won the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 1995 for a low cost housing complex in Indore, home to 80,000 people, before going on to be awarded the Pritzker Prize in 2018, has died.

After graduating from the JJ School of Architecture in Mumbai in 1950, Doshi took a job in the Paris studio of Le Corbusier, returning to India three years later inspired by the ideals of Brutalism. He established his own practice, but worked extensively for ten years with Louis Kahn, starting with the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad, a complex of red brick blocks that face off across an open green courtyard.

In 1979 Doshi built his own office, a series of interconnected sunken tunnel-like buildings, half below ground, half above. Four years later he was commissioned by the Indore Development Authority to address an acute shortage of housing, which saw thousands living on the streets or in slums. The architect recognised that providing a finite number of finished homes would not be enough, but rather came up with a plan to provide access and facilities for land set up to receive informal housing. Over six thousand plots were provided by Doshi, some only 35m2, with foundations built, a latrine and water tap or bath provided alongside access to water and electricity and the option of a kitchen. From there the occupants developed their own architecture according their needs, Doshi noting that ‘Ties between social activities and physical structures translate into specific elements: shared landings, tiny balconies, open terraces and the plinth with its added steps and ledges’.

More housing complexes followed, as well as theatres, a music academy and the Amdavad ni Gufa art gallery. In 2022 he received the the RIBA Royal Gold Medal.

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