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B V DOSHI

Among the many architects that worked in Le Corbusiers office at 35, rue de Svres, Paris,
in the heady 30s and 40s was a young man from India. Trained in an exacting,
personalised and highly idiosyncratic tradition, Balkrishna Doshi retained traces of this
influence when he returned to India to set up a practice in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Over the
decades he would fulfil many roles architect, urbanist, traditionalist, and educator, and
remains till today one of the most respected names in Indian architecture.
Doshis projects in India show a distinct personal and professional evolution, starting from
early experiments in applying the lessons of Modern Architecture in an Indian context to
increasing interest in South Asias vernacular tradition, myth and social diversity. Today
Doshis practice spans many interests, integrating and incorporating research and building
cells, as well as being closely linked to the Centre for Environmental Planning and
Technology (CEPT), Ahmedabad.

Sangath, BV Doshi's Office, Ahmedabad

His own office, Sangath, is composed of vaulted interior spaces linked both internally and
externally by gentle changes in level. Here the landscape forms an integral part of the
architecture, and Sangath rises up from the ground without actually appearing to leave it.
The vaults resist and soften the tendency of the verticals, and anchor the form to the earth
while reflecting, in a sense, the line of the sky. The whole composition is softened by
landscape elements, welcome additions in an otherwise harsh Gujarat.

Doshi and Students, CEPT, Ahmedabad

The Centre for Environment and Planning Technology (CEPT), incorporates in its four
main departments what is still one of the most prestigious architecture and planning schools
in the country. Its graduates are known as much for their high levels of commitment to
architecture and its practice as their ability to diversify into other allied fields.
At CEPT Doshi creates four wings grouped around a central space. The buildings, in their
brick and exposed concrete finishes, are simply finished and make no attempt to be
pretentious. What is noticeable, however, is the attention to detail detail that is surprising
and effective in how a comparatively low-cost solution may bring results that are all out of
proportion. One example is the creation of a gigantic concrete scale or ruler along the
walls of the studios a symbolic reminder of the essentiality of correct scale and
proportion that good architecture demands.
In the National Institute of Fashion Design (N.I.F.T.),
Delhi, Doshi and the Vastu-Shilpa Foundation are less
successful. While there is nothing wrong per se in using
the form of a step-well (baoli) from Ahmedabad as
conceptual and formal inspiration, what is lacking in the
building is the unity of its parts and overall coherence.
It is almost as if the building design has been given out
to several sub-teams within the office. Each of them has
done a competent job, but an overall rhythm is lacking.
It is entirely possible that Doshis office, in its eagerness
to keep up with developments in architectural theory
neglects in this building its core expertise that of
designing simple, good architecture that works for its
users and helps preserve local building traditions.

One of the by-products of success, of course, is that one has more time to devote to what
the outside world may call idiosyncrasies.
And so the Husain-Doshi Gufa, (Husain-Doshi cave), is the collaborative product of two of
the most controversial figures in Indian art and architecture.
BV Doshi creates and conceptualises the
space, and MF Husain embellishes it with
his painting and sculpture. While possibly
being a tourist attraction and even perhaps a
pilgrimage of sorts for students of
architecture, the Husain-Doshi Gufa,
Ahmedabad may not, in the end, do justice
to the considerable talents of either of its
creators.
In the later part of his career, Doshis work is characterized increasingly by mythical
allegories to religion and dreams. In the Bharat Diamond Bourse and other projects, the
built form and even at times the choice of site is, in Doshis words, the product of nontraditional forces. It is doubtful till now if these allegories have translated successfully
into concrete projects, nor how, in Doshis case, a mythical references to architecture have
translated into better user experience.
This is, really, one criticism of Doshis later work that in the search for a personally
satisfying solution he seems to have compromised on his earlier careful innovation and
respect for the end-user. While Correa has always been politically astute, Doshi at this
stage of his career seems satisfied with his earlier, spectacular success and gives up primary

responsibility to direct his architecture to allied firms - preferring instead to concentrate on


personal mythology as a medium of expression.
Still, Doshi remains one of the seminal figures of South Asian architecture and has
contributed in no small way to the evolution of post-independence architectural discourse
in India. Starting off as Le Corbusiers protg, Doshis architecture is an eclectic mix of
styles and influences that make it unique in recent history. Whether Doshis best is behind
him is something that may remain a subject of debate that, however, he has already made
an indelible mark in South Asia is already beyond contestation.

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