Japanese architect, planner, and theorist Arata Isozaki has been awarded the 2019 Pritzker Architecture Prize. Isozaki, born in 1931, was deeply influenced by the aftermath of World War II and the destruction of his hometown of Ōita, after which he became fascinated by the temporal nature of the built environment. “When I was old enough to begin an understanding of the world,” writes Isozaki, “my hometown was burned down. Across the shore, the Atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, so I grew up on ground zero. It was in complete ruins, and there was no architecture, no buildings and not even a city. Only barracks and shelters surrounded me. So, my first experience of architecture was the void of architecture, and I began to consider how people might rebuild their homes and cities.” After founding his own practice in the 1960s, Isozaki left Japan to cultivate a broader knowledge of world architecture. In his sixty years of practice, Isozaki has continued to build in a manner known more for its programmatic solutions and contextual nature than solid adherence to a single style or typology. From the Ōita Prefectural Library built in 1966, a stalwart example of Japanese Brutalism, to the 1986 Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, Isozaki has never shied away from tailoring his approach to specific projects. Following the reconstruction period after World War II, Isozaki made his name as one of the few Japanese architects to build abroad beginning in the 1980s and in doing so, exported a truly international style to the West. “Isozaki is a pioneer in understanding that the need for architecture is both global and local—that those two forces are part of a single challenge,” wrote Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, Jury Chair in a statement. “For many years, he has been trying to make certain that areas of the world that have long traditions in architecture are not limited to that tradition, but help spread those traditions while simultaneously learning from the rest of the world.” The jury’s citation notes Isozaki’s importance in facilitating a global dialogue on design. “Clearly, he is one of the most influential figures in contemporary world architecture on a constant search, not afraid to change and try new ideas. His architecture rests on profound understanding, not only of architecture but also of philosophy, history, theory, and culture. He has brought together East and West, not through mimicry or as a collage, but through the forging of new paths. He has set an example of generosity as he supports other architects and encourages them in competitions or through collaborative works." Isozaki is the eighth Japanese architect to be awarded the prize. The 2019 awards ceremony will be held sometime in May at the Château de Versailles, which will be followed by a lecture in Paris.
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Kevin Roche, the Irish-born American architect responsible for the design of over 200 modernist buildings around the world, died at age 96 last Friday at his home in Guilford, Connecticut. His namesake firm, Roche-Dinkeloo, released a statement immediately following his passing. Roche had a major impact on American architecture. After moving to the United States from Dublin in 1948, Roche studied under Ludwig Mies van Der Rohe, another noteworthy European emigrant and pioneer of modernist architecture. Two years later, Roche joined the firm of Eero Saarinen, a revolutionary architect known for his sculptural and futuristic buildings. As Saarinen’s principal design associate, Roche adopted his employer's expressionistic style and his belief that architecture serves a higher purpose by uniting people and promoting social and cultural growth among various communities. After Saarinen’s death in 1961, Roche and his colleague formed their own architectural firm, Roche-Dinkeloo, in Hamden, Connecticut. Their joint mission was to revolutionize and beautify large spaces and museums in order to attract the masses and bring people together who share common goals and interests. The New York Times reported that Roche was often described as a trusted, modest, and soft-spoken individual, yet, his buildings were far from subtle. His conspicuous and often dramatic projects symbolized his love for glass technology, strong and memorable forms, as well as expressionist and modernist sculpting. Roche’s forward-thinking philosophies enabled him to adapt his designs to any situation where they proved to be flexible, versatile, and efficient. His works include the iconic TWA Terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport, designed under Saarinen's direction, as well as the historic Ford Foundation headquarters in Midtown Manhattan, and the Oakland Museum of California. Roche was considered "the favored architect" of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, according to the NYT, where he designed each wing of the museum’s expansion, including the sun-lit Lehman Pavilion in 1975 and the massive glass pavilion enclosing the Temple of Dendur. He also completed the 1970s masterplan of United Nations Plaza, which included the build-out of three buildings, one of which is now a city landmark. As Roche’s projects flourished—he received the Pritzker Prize in 1982 and an American Institute of Architects Gold Medal in 1993—he became the go-to designer of major arts centers, corporate campuses, and federal sites. He designed the stark-white, geometric headquarters of General Foods in Rye Brook, New York, and the statuesque offices of J.P. Morgan Bank on Wall Street. Roche continued practicing architecture in his final years and didn’t slow down his work until his 95th birthday. Today he is survived by his wife of over 50 years, Jane Tuohy Roche, his five children, and 15 grandchildren.
In 1951, Balkrishna Doshi attended the International Congress of Modern Architecture in Hoddesdon, England. The 24-year-old architect was the only Indian there. He was besieged with questions about Chandigarh, the planned new capital city of Punjab. At Hoddesdon, Doshi sought employment with Le Corbusier. Le Corbusier was chosen as lead architect of Chandigarh by Jawaharlal Nehru, then Prime Minister of India. Doshi was promptly dispatched to Corb’s atelier in Paris. Speaking no French, and receiving no pay for the first eight months, Doshi survived on a diet of bread, olives and cheese. For the next four years, he would work on Le Corbusier’s most important Indian projects: the High Court and Governor’s Palace in Chandigarh (the latter unbuilt), and the Shodhan House and Villa Sarabhai, and the Mill Owners’ Association (MOA) Building in Ahmedabad. Doshi was quickly designated by Le Corbusier as the atelier’s principal interlocutor between Paris and India. In 1955, Doshi returned to India to oversee the completion of several projects there, and started his own firm in 1956. His pivotal role in the Mill Owners’ Association project–probably the last direct link between the Pritzker laureate and Le Corbusier–is worth a close look as we celebrate Doshi’s legacy. After World War II, Le Corbusier was seeking to move beyond the International Style by bringing in elements of traditional architecture, yet avoiding nostalgia. Doshi remained a key elaborator of this fusion. In his own projects, in his own words, he builds not on the literal elements but rather on the spirit of Corb, “expressed in proportions, modulations of space, creation of rhythms and tonalities.” However, in the early fifties, Doshi was not yet at a stage where he could operate independently of the western, modernist canon and pursue his own more overtly Indian architecture. He needed to please the Mill Owners Association, who wanted the Le Corbusier "brand" on every aspect of the project, including the furniture. Doshi needed also to meet Le Corbusier’s exacting standards, describing the building as a “little palace… an architecture for modern times adjusted to the climate of India… a true message toward an Indian architecture.” Disputes between the client and Le Corbusier created an opening for Doshi to design the building’s furniture himself. It was in harmony with the little Indian palace, but would not have been out of place in Saint-Germain showrooms like Steph Simon, next to designs by Charlotte Perriand, Pierre Jeanneret, and Jean Prouvé. The archives of the Le Corbusier Foundation house hundreds of pages of letters, sketches, and plans relating to the stormy interactions around the design and construction of the Mill Owners’ Association. Money issues dominated the process well before the design phase even began. Le Corbusier even requested Nehru’s personal intervention on the issue of the double taxation of his income in India and France. Money conflicts were so acrimonious that for a period of several months Le Corbusier did not communicate directly with his client. This paved the way for more involvement by Doshi. The subject of money was so pervasive that one was surprised, finally, to come across something about architecture in the correspondence. The first such document was a memo by Le Corbusier headed “For Doshi Only”:
To find the methods to rapidly put in places these factors a/shadows and sunlight b/rain c/wind affecting the following projects: Mill Owners’ Association Sarabhai Museum Mr. Hutheesing This work is exclusively for Doshi so that he can develop the elements of a modern architecture capable of addressing the Indian problems, climate, materials, laborThus Doshi was anointed as the fulcrum between east and west. In a series of letters to him, Jean-Louis Véret, a French architect who also worked for the atelier, raised several questions from the worksite, exhorting him facetiously to “show us the efficiency of the new India.” Doshi responded – in excellent French for someone who didn’t speak it at all in 1951 – with detailed sketches and descriptions. Doshi relished being in the control tower at rue de Sevres while Véret sweated it out on the frontiers of modern architecture. In Véret’s direct correspondence with Le Corbusier, most punch list items were marked “Doshi” in Corb’s hand. Doshi’s access to the Old Man was taken for granted by his colleagues. A frustrated Véret berated Doshi for being unresponsive once construction was underway: “you don’t have the excuse of having to wait to see Corbu,” he wrote. In mid-1954, Le Corbusier resumed direct contact with the MOA officials about finishing details of the building, including the touchy subject of the furniture. Having harangued and bickered with their architect about the carpeting, the width of the entry to the toilets and other details, the tenacious MOA president asserted that they were owed original designs for the entirety of the furniture. Le Corbusier, through an underling, suggested Mira Sarabhai (of the prominent family which commissioned a private house in Ahmedabad) to obtain some brochures from the U.S. or England and pick the furniture “in the spirit of the building.” With the construction phase drawing to a close, each side staked out irreconcilable positions on the finishes. The client wanted the architect’s brand on not only the building but also its contents, and the architect told the client to go buy them off the showroom floor! Abroad, no less. Doshi arrived in India to replace Véret in January 1955. Véret wrote: “This is great news because at least the building will be finished correctly.” Several months later, however, the subject of the furniture was still not resolved. Meanwhile, the end of the construction phase failed to bring with it an improvement in relations between Le Corbusier and his clients. Le Corbusier was fed up, and the feeling was mutual. The resolution of this impasse fell to the recently repatriated Doshi. He authoritatively advised the MOA that “for the last few minor details pending I have already given complete instructions…” At this point the archive trails off, confirming that Doshi handled it himself. The final plans for the project, as published in Le Corbusier: Oeuvres complète 1957-1965, show close approximations of actual furnishings. Doshi’s fixed concrete table, a massive freeform conference table, and a second conference table in the shape of an “A” are recognizable in the plans signed by Le Corbusier. We know that prototype chairs came from Chandigarh, produced under the aegis of Pierre Jeanneret. The rest of the furniture, including stools, cabinets, and desks, was designed by Doshi and executed under his supervision in Ahmedabad. Two preceding generations of Doshi’s family had been in the furniture business, so he knew what he was doing. With four years in Paris under his belt giving him the confidence to assert himself, Doshi broke the logjam by telling the Ahmedabad contingent that he had been, in effect, anointed by Le Corbusier to make the furniture. Perhaps he even pointed out to them that it was standard operating procedure at rue de Sevres for someone else in the atelier to design, or at least work out, the furniture, as Perriand and Jeanneret had done for several Corb villas. Doshi would go on to father a new Indian modernism that melded late Corbusian precepts with Indian traditions and concerns. He would be responsible for bringing Louis Kahn to Ahmedabad a decade later. The Mill Owners’ Association was his first trial by fire on his way to assuming his pivotal role in the history of architecture.
2018 Pritzker Prize laureate Balkrishna Doshi delivered a wide-ranging lecture at the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design at the University of Toronto in Canada last night during a reception honoring his career and achievements. The sprawling discussion covered topics ranging in nature from the finer points of self-directed communal housing in India’s small towns to the ways in which institutional buildings can be imbued with a sense of wonder and surprise. Doshi, the first Indian to win the Pritzker and one of only a handful of architects ever selected from non-European or American countries, seemingly relished in the opportunity to discuss the relative difference and richness in perspective his “uncharted” architecture possesses, saying at one point, “If you come to India, we can show you how [poetic architecture] can be done.” The talk, autobiographical in nature and encyclopedic in its treatment of the vital but seldom-discussed facets of thoughtful architecture, was organized generally as a series of life lessons presented to the students and staff in attendance for their benefit. Below are a few of the many key points Doshi espoused in describing his life-long pursuit of open-ended, dynamic, and multivalent architectures.
- Create spaces where you can lose yourself—In describing visiting religious temples and participating in familial ceremonies during his youth, Doshi explained that he would lose himself in the spectacular detail of sacred spaces but that he was also often inspired by the ability people have to transform any place into a special one. These two things come together for Doshi to inspire both an admiration of architecture and an acknowledgement that people and the stories they create play as important a role in the full expression of space as typical architectonic elements do. Doshi said, “mythical stories have become for me a fact because they are in my memory,” adding later that “everything can become sacred because there’s always something there that is unknown to us.”
- Be a citizen as well as a professional—Responding to a question about the relationship between mass shootings and architecture, Doshi explained that for him, being involved with other people as a citizen and an individual was of the upmost importance and that building human relationships should sometimes supersede professional concerns. Remarking on the current state of politics and society, Doshi said, “right now, the dialogue is missing and I think dialogue is very important.”
- Focus on stability, not mobility—Several of the projects Doshi covered in his lecture focused not just on the inherent usefulness of his designs, but on their potential for reuse and reinterpretation, either through the lens of an evolving family, for example, or through the ways in which nature and the changing of the seasons can lend spaces a sense of dynamism. For Doshi, the propensity buildings have for long-term use and re-use comes from designing for stability. In response to an audience question, Doshi himself asked, “when we design, do we [anticipate] if we were the users, the ways in which we would modify” something like a house or an apartment?
- Design things that can be used for many, many purposes—In discussing a design for a water tower for a new company town, Doshi explained that instead of striving merely for the most efficient or easy-to-build form, his office explored a way of creating a water tower that could also be used for festivals and celebrations throughout the year. With the project, Doshi tried to answer the question: “How does one create [spaces for] several activities that are natural [to engage in] when there are no opportunities to do them?” His answer? To design a brick and concrete water tower with a wide skirt at the bottom that creates covered outdoor space and provides a winding staircase that ascends to the top of the tower so “young couples can have ice cream cones” on their way to the top to enjoy the view. Doshi also discussed self-directed housing types in Aranya, India that allow occupants to incrementally add to their units over time in order to create dynamic dwellings that can grow along with their inhabitants or add the potential for economic development and social integration.
- Embed movement, nature, and an appreciation of time in your work—Doshi imbues many of his projects with direct connections to nature out of necessity due to India’s climate. His works, like the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology and the Indian Institute of Management developed with Louis Kahn, allow nature to flourish amid architecture. Doshi said, “we are [never] aware of time, but if we sit in one place and watch the sun, everything can become sacred and can have some use we do not currently know.”
“About time!” was perhaps the most common refrain on social media when it was announced that the 2018 Pritzker Prize had been awarded to the architect, B.V. Doshi, the grand old man of architecture from the Indian subcontinent. He is the first Indian to win the prize and its oldest recipient. It would be impossible to write a history of the modern architecture of India or, for that matter, of the non-western world, without acknowledging Balkrishna Doshi’s seminal contributions. His career spans nearly seven decades as an educator, urbanist and an architect, and his legacy undoubtedly transcends the Global South. Yet for all the tributes that poured in, there was a eagerness to fit the contribution of the man and the significance of the award into a neat box. Robin Pogrebin’s piece in The New York Times, “Top Architecture Prize Goes to Low-Cost Housing Pioneer From India,” was particularly reductive, if not offensive, to those more familiar with the work. It is not unlike calling Beethoven, “a pioneer in concerto writing from Germany.” While both statements might be true, they betray an incredible myopia toward the breadth of their legacies. When Doshi founded his office in Ahmedabad in 1955, the Indian state was not even a decade old. Mahatma Gandhi and his ashram in Ahmedabad had served as the epicenter of a great struggle against British imperialism. Doshi arrived in this city from Chandigarh, where Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, had commissioned Le Corbusier to design a new capital for the state of Punjab. Inevitably, the landmarks of the new nation liberated from European imperialism would now be built according to the doctrines of high modernism. Doshi himself was a product of this movement, having worked for four years in the atelier of Le Corbusier in Paris prior to his arrival in Chandigarh. Even in India, modernism was seen as a tour de force that promised a new egalitarian social order, removed from the shackles of tradition. To be modern meant to embrace an architecture of European modernism and its associated dogmas of rationalist thinking, objectivism and tabula rasa planning, with an unfettered belief in progress and technology. For a nation recovering from colonialism, with great and diverse traditions in art, architecture and city form, reconciling these dogmas of modernist thinking took several decades. Doshi’s work and legacy is a search for this reconciliation, between universalism and place, rationalism and what philosopher Paul Ricoeur calls ‘the mythical nucleus of humankind.” The quest embodied in Doshi’s oeuvre has also been the quest of his peers Charles Correa, Achyut Kanvinde, Anant Raje and Raj Rewal, to name a few. It has been a quest of not one, but several generations of architects from the subcontinent and the Global South at large, to create an ontological and literal framework for an architecture that is modern and yet rooted in place. This involved acknowledging and reinterpreting elements from the rich traditions of Indian architecture –the courtyard, the jali (screen), a layered notion of enclosure, ornament and, very significantly, the plinth or the occupied ground. The treatment of the ground as a receptacle for the celebration of life is a critical aspect of Doshi’s work. It marks a clear break from the piloti and the grid–tools of Cartesian planning that favor the automobile’s hegemony over the ground. Doshi’s School of Architecture (1972), Sangath (1980), and The Gufa (1990) reveal an evolution of an autochthonous architecture of the ground, which becomes one of the most significant attributes of these buildings. The School of Architecture presents an activated ground, a constantly changing datum with tactile inhabitation. This is already a distinct shift from the Institute of Indology (1956), one of Doshi's earliest projects, or The Mill Owners Association building by Le Corbusier (1954) (a building that Doshi worked on as a project architect), which establish a strong single datum against the ground plane below. Sangath (which roughly translates as ‘working together through participation’) marks a true departure from the architectural tropes of Corbusier and Louis Kahn–the coming into being of a distinct architecture which is both modern and deeply rooted in place. The ground and the building are now inseparable and symbiotic. Landscape becomes the primary architectural mediator. The building is perceived as a rich topography of occupiable plinths culminating in vaulted porcelain mosaic roof forms that frame the sky. It is an architecture of multiplicity, tactility, ornament and myth. When the project was under construction, Doshi encouraged local craftsmen to leave their own creations in the landscape of the building, giving agency to the artisans. The waste of chiseled stone chips becomes an incredibly beautiful embellishment within the landscape. Upon entering the premises, you enter a haven–a world within a world. Programmatically, the building works not just as a studio but as a real celebration of life–a living ground for exhibitions, performances and festivities. In reflecting on Doshi’s work on housing, the French philosopher Paul Ricœur comes to mind. In History and Truth (1961), Ricoeur says, “The phenomenon of universalization… constitutes a sort of subtle destruction...of the creative nucleus of great cultures…the ethical and mythical nucleus of mankind. Everywhere throughout the world one finds the same bad movie, the same slot machines, the same plastic or aluminum atrocities, the same twisting of language by propaganda.” It is striking how prescient Ricœur is today in an era of fake news and climate change. Everywhere one finds the same twisted architectural forms, the same placelessness, the same erosion of public space and public life, the same universal crisis of housing, and the replacement of housing by speculative real estate in global cities from London and New York to Shanghai, Lagos and Mumbai. It is in this light that Doshi’s low-income housing in Aranya should be considered. The Aranya project is a highly sophisticated design for over 6,500 dwellings. For a site and services project, it breaks from typical gridded layouts that maximize rationalization and efficiency. Instead, the project provides an urban armature where a range of open spaces and pedestrian pathways intersect and connect residential clusters to a central spine. Incrementality is the defining attribute of the project. Users are encouraged to add rooms to the service core of their house over time. Eight demonstration houses were designed by Doshi to illustrate the array of available options, from one-room shelters to more elaborate homes. Cross-subsidies and financial structures were put into place to encourage people to build their homes incrementally. This they did, and Aranya today is a thriving city of over 80,000 people. The project has created common spaces where people from varied castes and diverse religions mix and cooperate. Social cohesion is fostered through the very framework of the project–a crucial aspect that is easily overlooked in its descriptions. That architecture can and should have a socially progressive agenda was, after all, a defining attribute of the modernism–to bring design to the masses, to produce not only a new aesthetic, but also a new egalitarian order. Form thus became an instrument of reducing social inequity. The canonical architects of the time engaged in feats of social housing, such as Weisenhoff Seidlung, the Unité de Habitation, Byker Wall and PREVI Lima. Aranya belongs to this lineage of architectural agency. Today, an architecture of social cohesion has given way to the architect as a celebrity superstar, complicit with neoliberal agendas, designing condominiums for the one percent. Form has utterly lost its social agency and become the perverse weapon of increased social inequity. Never before has the architect seemed more impotent in the face of global crisis–ecological, political and social. It is clear that architecture today needs less autonomy and greater spatial agency. This means a deeper engagement with forms and practices that offer modes of resistance to neoliberal orders, and less collusion with the forces of capital. For an architect who has completed over one hundred projects in nearly seven decades of practice, Doshi has yet to design a luxury condominium or a glass skyscraper! In belatedly acknowledging Doshi’s legacy, the Pritzker Prize finally brings attention to a great body of work. It also exposes a certain state of contemporary culture where practices of resistance are few and far between. Finally, in an age of toxic work cultures and the erosion of family life, the life of B.V Doshi also has something to teach us. This is reflected in his belief that great architecture is attainable not in spite of family life but because of it. Speaking at the Royal Academy of Arts last year, Doshi said that living together within an extended family remained one of the greatest influences of his life, where he "learnt about cooperation, tolerance, togetherness, humility, generosity, and interdependence." While much is made about Doshi’s associations with the masters, it is the women in his life who need to be celebrated–his three daughters, wife and mother-in-law. He is surely the only Pritzker Prize winner to have lived with his mother-in-law for 38 years. "I learnt so many things from her simplicity, humility... She was fantastic!" Doshi’s life and work are imbued with an ethos that integrates the quintessential qualities of architecture–form, space and light–with the quintessential attributes that make us human, to create institutions and places of lasting meaning and value; an architecture of place in an age of placelessness. This, in the end, is perhaps what makes Doshi so relevant to contemporary culture today, both in the east and the west. Sarosh Anklesaria is a Brooklyn based architect and Visiting Assistant Professor at the Pratt Institute. Sarosh spent eight years at CEPT University, which was founded by Doshi, and has worked as an architect at Sangath, the office of B.V. Doshi.
When I first arrived in Ahmedabad, India by train nearly twenty years ago, loaded with a backpack and a collection of books from which to teach for the first time, I asked the rickshaw driver if he knew where Sangath was located. “Oh, you are looking for Doshi-ji?” he quipped. “Doshi-ji,” the ‘–ji’ signifying both respect and an honorific for an elder or person of standing, “is most important shiksak (a word suggesting teacher) and vaastulkar (architect/engineer).” That a driver in a burgeoning city of millions might recognize the location of Balkrishna Doshi’s famed atelier, as well as the man himself, did not occur to me as unusual until much later. Having known of Doshi-ji from gazing upon Chandigarh in a number of darkened classrooms as a student, I eventually made a pilgrimage to the “new”capital city of the Punjab upon arriving in India, which Doshi had managed. There he was in photos examining drawings alongside Le Corbusier, sitting at a drafting table in Paris, observing a construction site in Bangalore; his name echoed among those architects and students I met: “You must go to Ahmedabad,” they implored. I remained skeptical. And so it was two years later, when I returned to India, this time to teach at CEPT (which later became a university), an elegant brick and concrete architecture and planning school conceived and designed in part by Doshi, that I finally went to Ahmedabad. Until then, a number of my teachers had emphasized a rethinking of modernism’s legacies and impact. Such notions informed the first classes I taught at CEPT, one of the reasons I set off for South Asia in the first place. Here, without the distraction of every emerging trend, it seemed one might be able to both yield to and observe closely how and why architecture and urbanism informs the complexities of daily life. Yet it seemed I could not escape, in every discussion and desk crit, the mention of Doshi-ji. His name and his ideas are a force in a school that bears an unerring vision of moving architecture beyond the conventional dialectics of here and there, them and us. I was living and working within his vision of a holistic architecture bearing the imprint of (Indian) society’s inward turn toward the maintenance of mythmaking. Merging a landscape as much informed by cosmology as that of a not-so-ancient city’s sprawl, the school had become my center of gravity. By this time, I had sipped chai alongside the morphological experiment of the “Gufa,” or Amdavad-ni-Gufa, Doshi's collaboration with the esteemed artist MF Husain; I had walked past the stepped shelled-facades of his studio, Sangath, en route to my favorite dhaba on Drive-in Road. These were familiar landmarks. But nothing prepared me for my first meeting with the man whose presence had long preceded him. I had asked members of the school to introduce me to Doshi-ji. After a few months, I found myself sitting one very hot day in the cool hush of his studio. The atmosphere was charged with the silent attention of men and women working on drawings and models for the Diamond Exchange in Mumbai. Doshi-ji appeared and immediately asked me what buildings I had seen, what books I was reading. I rambled through a list, and soon was asked to sit with a group of young architects at the edge of a long table covered with books, our heads turned daily toward the making of drawings. However, I did not last long in Doshi-ji’s studio. Perhaps my hubris prevented a longer affiliation with him. I did not understand the devotional attention to the “guru,” to the “master” whose teachings were the stuff of legend. Did I think I could not learn from him? Even with all the time I had spent at CEPT and elsewhere that possessed his hallmark spirit, I was not immediately converted. On every occasion I was asked to participate on a design jury, Doshi-ji would glare at me or ignore me altogether. I tried to counter him with misplaced theory on multiple occasions, unsuccessfully. I have reflected on these decisions over the years. So much of what we think of the great architects and their embodiments happens after the fact, over time, even if immediacy does not negate experience. Rhetoric cannot hold sway with an architect such as Doshi, whose lifelong philosophy to educate through and by building drives an unerring attention to the built environment as a mirror of our knowledge...or lack thereof. More recently, I have had the great privilege of visiting Doshi-ji again at his model-filled studios of Sangath as well as at the exhibition of his work at Shanghai's Power Station of Art, organized by Khushnu Hoof. We laughed at my early inattentions. Our discussions have centered on the agency of the visual in relation to the question of inhabiting space as a universal and/or ethical condition. He has asked me how to move beyond the degradation of belief to imbue architecture with the capacity to transform society at multiple scales. With inspired words and aphorisms, Doshi insists on recognizing the self as inhabiting multiple contexts. His projects are intimate glances at the character of a man whose work is revolutionary for its ability to be present and to disappear at the same time. Doshi-ji, Abhinandana, Mubarak, congratulations on your extraordinary achievements and for teaching all of us how to see for ourselves. Sean Anderson is the Associate Curator in the Department of Architecture and Design at The Museum of Modern Art.
Balkrishna Doshi is the 45th Pritzker Prize Laureate and the first architect from India to win the prize. For over seven decades, Doshi has been committed to shaping and nurturing India’s modern architectural milieu and is an important voice in the industry’s global discourse as an architect, urban planner, and educator. He worked closely with Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn and completed over 100 projects of varying scales with his firm, Vastu-Shilpa. Doshi deftly integrates the principles of modernism within the realities of the Indian climate and context. His work addresses serious social issues, developing low-cost housing and urban planning throughout India’s cities, particularly in Ahmedabad, India, where he is based. According to the 2018 jury citation: “With a deep sense of responsibility and a desire to contribute to his country and its people through high quality, authentic architecture, he has created projects for public administrations and utilities, educational and cultural institutions, and residences for private clients, among others. Doshi is acutely aware of the context in which his buildings are located. His solutions take into account the social, environmental and economic dimensions, and therefore his architecture is totally engaged with sustainability.” After studying architecture in Mumbai, Doshi joined Le Corbusier in Paris in the early 1950s, returning to Ahmedabad to work on several of Corbusier’s buildings there and ultimately overseeing Chandigarh. In 1962, Doshi collaborated with Louis Kahn on the Indian Institute of Management, continuing to work with him into the 1970s. Doshi founded his own practice, Vastu-Shilpa Consultants in 1956, and later established the Vastu-Shilpa Foundation for Studies and Research in Environmental Design in 1978. He has spent subsequent years developing cities and townships as well as notable educational and cultural facilities. Some of his most iconic projects include Aranya Low Cost Housing (Indore, India), which won the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 1996, ATIRA low-cost housing (Ahmedabad, India), his office, Sangath (Ahmedabad, India), and IFFCO Township (Kalol, India). The works are site-sensitive with protective overhangs and subterranean spaces to mitigate the extreme climate, interlocking volumes and fluid layouts to promote interaction, and overlapping spaces that connect the indoors to the outdoors. “Every object around us, and nature itself—lights, sky, water and storm—everything is in a symphony,” Doshi explained in a statement. “And this symphony is what architecture is all about. My work is the story of my life, continuously evolving, changing and searching...searching to take away the role of architecture, and look only at life.” The 2018 Pritzker Architecture Prize ceremony will be hosted at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, Canada, in May, and Doshi will give a public lecture in partnership with the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design at the University of Toronto on May 16, 2018. For more information, visit the Pritzker Prize website.
In a recent interview with AN, Lord Richard Rogers commented on his recent experience on the Pritzker Prize jury. As we eagerly await the announcement on March 7, our editors are speculating who could be on his mind... "Yesterday I was a judge of the Pritzker Prize and we made the choice—can’t talk about it. But, it was extremely interesting, the number of Indian architects and South American architects, there are architects dealing with problems like housing for the poor and working with immensely exciting new materials and places and responding to this. In that sense, it is better, it is broader. I can phone and e-mail as easily as I can go next door. The digital is global. So on the one hand the world is getting smaller… Politically, well, let’s not discuss it." With Alejandro Aravena as the 2016 Pritzker Prize winner and RCR Arquitectes taking home the prize in 2017, architects from India and South Asia could be a good bet. Who do you think will win the 2018 Pritzker Prize? Read the full interview with Lord Rogers, here.
For the first time, three individuals have been named as Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureates: Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem, and Ramon Vilalta. All three are from Olot in the Catalonian region of Spain; in 1988 the trio founded their firm RCR Arquitectes. The Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate is typically given to an individual. In awarding a group, the Pritzker Architecture Prize cited the following: "Their intensely collaborative way of working together, where the creative process, commitment to vision and all responsibilities are shared equally, led to the selection of the three individuals for this year’s award." Aranda, Pigem, and Vilalta are collectively the 38th winner of the prize and they will take home $100,000 as well as architecture's most prestigious honor. Recent major projects from the firm include the Bell–Lloc Winery (2007, Palamós, Girona, Spain), Soulages Museum (2014, Rodez, France), and the La Lira Theater Public Open Space (2011, Ripoll, Girona, Spain). In a press release, The Pritzker Architecture Prize cited the emotional power of the trio's architecture, as well as its site-specific sensitivity and enduring qualities:
Their work demonstrates an unyielding commitment to place and its narrative, to create spaces that are in discourse with their respective contexts. Harmonizing materiality with transparency, Aranda, Pigem and Vilalta seek connections between the exterior and interior, resulting in emotional and experiential architecture. Mr. Pritzker remarks: “The jury has selected three architects who have been working collaboratively for nearly three decades. Mr. Aranda, Ms. Pigem and Mr. Vilalta have had an impact on the discipline far beyond their immediate area. Their works range from public and private spaces to cultural venues and educational institutions, and their ability to intensely relate the environment specific to each site is a testament to their process and deep integrity.” Mr. Aranda, Ms. Pigem and Mr. Vilalta represent the first time that three architects together are honored with the prize. Their intensely collaborative way of working together, where the creative process, commitment to vision and all responsibilities are shared equally, led to the selection of the three individuals for this year’s award. As the winners of the 39th edition of the Prize, it is the second time that laureates hail from Spain, following Rafael Moneo who received the award in 1996. In response to being named the 2017 Laureates of the Pritzker Prize, Ms. Pigem states: “It is a great joy and a great responsibility. We are thrilled that this year three professionals, who work closely together in everything we do, are recognized.” The locally-based architects evoke universal identity through their creative and extensive use of modern materials including recycled steel and plastic. “They’ve demonstrated that unity of a material can lend such incredible strength and simplicity to a building,” says Glenn Murcutt, Jury Chair. “The collaboration of these three architects produces uncompromising architecture of a poetic level, representing timeless work that reflects great respect for the past, while projecting clarity that is of the present and the future.” As such, an early 20th century foundry has become their office, Barberí Laboratory (2007), and many remnants of the original building have remained, blended with highly contrasting, new elements, which were added only where essential.Last year, Alejandro Aravena won the prize. The Chilean architect, widely accoladed for proposing half houses in his home country that inhabitants completed, was known for his socially-minded approach to architecture. 2015, however, saw the Pritzker judges take a different approach. Instead of choosing a relatively young, innovative architect, Frei Otto from Germany was rewarded for his life's work, notably his tensile structures. Otto died later that year, meanwhile, Aravena, went on to direct the Venice Biennale after receiving his award, capping off a stellar year for him. Other past winners include Zaha Hadid, Norman Foster, Peter Zumthor, SANAA, Rem Koolhaas, Richard Meier, Frank Gehry, Richard Rogers and Phillip Johnson who won the first ever Pritzker Prize. The Prize has been running since 1979. The full announcement is available here.
Starting tonight—April 4—between 7:30pm ET and 8:00pm ET, the United Nations Headquarters is broadcasting the 2016 Pritzker Prize ceremony. The webcast is also available on webtv.un.org. You can read the Architect's Newspaper's (AN) previous coverage of his win here and AN editor-in-chief William Menking's commentary here.
What does it mean when the winner of the 2016 Pritzker Prize—Chile’s Alejandro Aravena—just came off the jury of the very same award? He was on the jury from 2009 to 2015 and all the jurors from 2015 (The Lord Palumbo (Chair), Alejandro Aravena, Stephen Breyer, Yung Ho Chang, Kristin Feireiss, Glenn Murcutt, Richard Rogers, Benedetta Tagliabue, and Ratan N. Tata) were on the 2016 jury—except Aravena? Two past winners were on the jury prior to receiving the award, but won 5 years after departing. Shigeru Ban served from 2006-9 and won in 2014. While Fukihiko Maki was a juror from 1985-88 and won in 93. Aravena's quick turnaround suggests that there is an emphasis on a definition of architecture that Aravena represents and was put on the jury to make a case for…or that he is part a network that makes these decisions and leads to friends nominating friends for the prize. Is this common in the world of international awards and prizes or is this how stars are made in 2016?
Alejandro Aravena of ELEMENTAL is having a banner year. The Chilean architect—and director of the upcoming 2016 Venice Biennale—has been named the winner of the 2016 Pritzker Architecture Prize. He is best known for his socially-minded approach to architecture—namely housing and disaster relief. Aravena has a number of completed projects that range from “chairs” for sitting on the ground (commissioned by Vitra) to a master plan for Santiago, Chile in the aftermath of a 2010 magnitude 8.8 earthquake and subsequent tsunami. ELEMENTAL’s work with social housing includes a series of “half-finished homes,” a new model for housing designed for the poorest members of society. By leaving the units spaced, the architects allow future users to add-on and personalize their housing, which makes social housing an investment rather than simply a front-end cost. It was first tested at Quinta Monroy (completed 2003) in Iquique, Tarapacá, Chile, and was then replicated at Villa Verde (2010) in Constitución, Maule Region, Chile and their Monterrey Housing (2010) in Monterrey, Mexico. In June 2011, in an interview with AN West Coast Editor Mimi Zeiger, Aravena said: "Social housing is a question with intellectual merit. It is a tough question—a challenge, a professional challenge. We had to acccept the constraints in the market. Follow all the constraints, then your solution may be replicated. Prove the point that you can do better, then the market can imitate you. It is not about building one unit, but about building 100, because the market operates at that scale. We went for the real thing. Once you decompose the constraints—that is the good thing about being an outsider—you ask the stupid questions. When you are in a given field you are overwhelmed by the problem.” Aravena’s 2016 Biennale opens in May and will be themed "Reporting From the Front.” It aims to explore how architecture is battling in the real world to confronting the social and political issues that we are faced with today. It should pick up—to some extent— where the Chicago Biennial left off last fall. According to the Pritzker committee: Alejandro Aravena has delivered works of architectural excellence in the fields of private, public and educational commissions both in his home country and abroad.... He has undertaken projects of different scales from single-family houses to large institutional buildings.... He understands materials and construction, but also the importance of poetry and the power of architecture to communicate on many levels."