Indian architect Balkrishna Doshi wins 2018 Pritzker Prize

The 2018 winner of architecture's highest honor has been crowned. Indian architect Balkrishna Doshi, who worked with Le Corbusier, walked away with this year’s Pritzker Prize.

Balkrishna Doshi / photo source: Pritzker Architecture Prize

He will receive $100,000 and a bronze medallion. 

The 90-year-old is one of India's most influential architects, boasting an impressive portfolio spanning over 70 years. He is the founder of the studio Vastu-Shilpa, and has become well-known in the areas of low-cost housing and modern city planning in India. 

He also founded and planned the Ahmedabad School of Architecture, which takes on a minimal feel of simple bricks and concrete structures. The campus boasts courtyards and an open layout. 

“Balkrishna Doshi has always created an architecture that is serious, never flashy or a follower of trends,” the Pritzker jury said in its citation. It went on to praise Doshi as having a “deep sense of responsibility and a desire to contribute to his country and its people through high-quality, authentic architecture.”

His works span from mixed-use complexes to public spaces and galleries, but his own architecture studio Sangath was one of his most personal projects. “Sangath fuses images and associations of Indian lifestyles. The campus integrates, and memories of places visited collide, evoking and connecting forgotten episodes. Sangath is an ongoing school where one learns, unlearns and relearns. It has become a sanctuary of culture, art and sustainability where research, institutional facilities and maximum sustainability are emphasized,” he said.

Doshi was born in Pune, India, in 1927, to a family which was involved in the furniture industry. He studied architecture in Mumbai before traveling to Paris in 1951 and returning to India three years later. 

Premabhai Hall (1976) Ahmedabad, India / Photo courtesy of VSF
Premabhai Hall (1976) Ahmedabad, India / Photo courtesy of VSF
Amdavad Ni Gufa (1994) Ahmedabad, India / Photo courtesy of VSF
Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology 1996-2012 (Multiple Phases), Ahmedabad, India / Photo courtesy of VSF
Aranya Low Cost Housing (1989) Indore, India / Photo courtesy of VSF
Institute of Indology (1962) Ahmedabad, India / Photo courtesy of VSF
Kamala House (1963) Ahmedabad, India / Photo courtesy of VSF
Premabhai Hall (1976) Ahmedabad, India / Photo courtesy of VSF

Responding to news of his win, Doshi said: “I owe this prestigious prize to my guru, Le Corbusier,” referring to the iconic architect he worked under during his time in Paris. “His teachings led me to question identity and compelled me to discover new regionally adopted contemporary expression for a sustainable holistic habitat.”

The Pritzker Prize is awarded each year to a living architect(s) for significant achievement in their field. It was established by the Pritzker family of Chicago, through their Hyatt Foundation, in 1979.

The prestigious prize was designed “to honor a living architect or architects whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture."

Doshi will receive the prize at an official ceremony which generally takes place in the month of May. The event is held at a different architecturally significant location each year, often at sites which were designed by previous Pritzker Prize laureates. 

The invitation-only ceremony will be attended by international guests, as well as guests form the host country. The prize will be presented by Tom Pritzker, the son of the prize's co-founder Jay A. Pritzker. Doshi will then give an acceptance speech. 

The bronze medallion which will be awarded to Doshi is based on the designs of Louis Sullivan, a famed Chicago architect who is widely acknowledged as the father of the skyscraper. The name of the prize is featured on one side, while the other bears the inscription "firmness, commodity and delight." That phrase recalls Roman architect Vitruvius' fundamental principles of architecture - firmitas, utilitas, venustas.  

Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem and Ramon Vilalta / photo source: Pritzker Architecture Prize

Last year’s prize winners were the founders of Spanish firm RCR Arquitectes. Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem, and Ramon Vilalta. The three talented individuals were particularly credited for creating buildings and places that are simultaneously local and universal. 

Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid became the first woman to win the prize in 2004. Other previous winners include Alejandro Aravena, Shigeru Ban, Rem Koolhaas, Norman Foster, and Philip Johnson. 

Text: Lynsey Free