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Connections, memories and statements – RGM 2022 winner Balkrishna Doshi reveals his inspirations for architecture

RIBA 2022 Royal Gold Medal winner Balkrishna Doshi tells RIBA President Simon Allford how his connections to his, and India's culture and past and the memories of his architectural gurus, have inspired him to create his award-winning buildings.

14 June 2022

As part of his acceptance of this year's 2022 Royal Gold Medal, Balkrishna Doshi explains his concept of architecture to RIBA President Simon Allford.

In a wide-ranging discussion, Doshi describes how his appreciation of India's culture, climate and craft has informed his buildings, which include administrative and cultural buildings, housing developments and residential buildings. With no formal training in architecture, Doshi has relied on his spiritual convictions, his connections to his past (including his architectural gurus Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn), and the social framework of India to inspire him.

"I belong to the old tradition of Hinduism," says Doshi. "My grandfather was my ideal and he taught me about reverence, going to temple every day to pray. All those rituals helped me. And when you start drawing on a piece of paper, these thoughts help you. I have never gone to a college of architecture so my learning is through them, my family, my gurus, through these channels."

Royal Gold Medal 2022 winner Balkrishna Doshi

Doshi explains that his lack of formal training in architecture prompted him to open a School of Architecture in India in 1962.

"We have no history of architectural schooling," says Doshi. "I encouraged my mentor Louis Kahn to come here every year and talk to the students."

"History opens up the doors. I would never had known about Palladio unless I was connected to Le Corbusier and Kahn. So the idea is how does one learn, how do you study buildings? How do you interpret space? In education, the most important thing is to have a journey and somebody who opens up the doors for you so you get connected."

The 94-year-old architect also remembers how, as a young man 70 years ago, he would visit the RIBA Library in London. "Every evening I'd be at the library and look at the hall and all the photographs, drawings and information. And I wondered how such a library happened in this country and wondered when we'd have a library such as this in our own country.”

"The collection shows that you traverse centuries, with photographs, sketches, etc. As a young Indian who had never seen such a library, I had never seen such things and it inspired me."

Doshi founded the School of Architecture in 1962

 

In a wide-ranging discussion to accept his medal, Doshi tells Simon Allford that the award is "the greatest gift I could imagine in my life. How could I ask for more?"

Doshi could not come to London to receive his award, so RIBA President Simon Allford travelled to Doshi's residence in Ahmedabad to award him the medal.

"Doshi's architecture not only accommodates life but is also skilful enough, clever enough to have an identity to people who continue to adapt and enjoy architecture," says Allford. "He has developed a philosophy of architecture as a living organism, not a design object.”

"Life and ways of living influence the way buildings and space are made," says Doshi. "In India those lessons are very important.”

Doshi also adds that India can teach the world about sustainability because of the trend of repurposing buildings.

“We talk of function, space, but what is the meaning of space? When I started the School of Architecture, I took the students to building sites and I told them that anything you do is subject to change and modification and so architecture becomes an extension of life and living. In India, when you build a house, over time the house changes. So this is a big question for architects who don't want their buildings changed."

"So this has been my philosophy, asking the question, What is the essence of architecture? A building is a living organism. A building is alive. It's not a product, it's a process in which things happen. It's a reflection of life and architecture is a backdrop to life.”

Find out more on Doshi’s award winning buildings.

RIBA’s Royal Gold Medal is sponsored by Arper

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