Posts tagged with "pritzker":

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Balkrishna Doshi’s essential role in Le Corbusier’s Mill Owners Association building

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, labor
Thus 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.
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Pritzker Jury: Pathway to The Stars?

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?  
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Alejandro Aravena of ELEMENTAL Wins 2016 Pritzker Prize

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."
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DJ Thommy Mayne and the Pritzker-Making Hits

Widely accepted as the greatest public radio station on the planet, KCRW is famous for its groundbreaking music played by DJs who are smarter, cooler and infinitely better dressers than you. But last week was a bitter one for LA as the station's great Nic Harcourt hung up his headphones as music director. For those of you who are already missing Harcourt's esoteric taste (sometimes a bit difficult to take at 9:03am even after a visit to Intelligensia), never fear: Thom Mayne has stepped into the booth. You heard that right: As part of KCRW's Guest DJ Project, Mayne picked five songs that have inspired him throughout his life. Paired with former music director Tom Schnabel, Mayne sported his usual maniacal grin and a gleam in his eye (above) as he took to the turntable, admitting that on some occasions, he allowed music to help him design: "There’s actually times when I was drawing, closing my eyes, when I have a sketch book where I was moving my hand rhythmically and shaping it and literally trying to shape drawings that were coming directly from various types of music." You can hear the whole set at KCRW.com, but go ahead and rev up your iPod now, because here's what he played: 1.) Dr. John - Right Place, Wrong Time 2.) John Lurie (as Marvin Pontiac) - Runnin' Round 3.) Stevie Ray Vaughn - Texas Flood 4.) Laurie Anderson - Big Science 5.) Prince - Musicology We have to admit we love Mayne's taste in music, which left a dirty Texas BBQ flavor with a sprinkle of bad 80's hair in our mouths. And at least now we can forgive Mayne for the shortcomings of the Caltrans Building: It's clearly not his fault, seeing as he designed it while under the influence of what is easily the worst Prince song in existence. With the possible exception of "Diamonds and Pearls."