Working with the architect maestro B.V. Doshi

As years go by, one realises that in life everything is design and it cannot be isolated. – BV Doshi

Indian architecture fraternity witnessed the biggest day in its existence on March 7, 2018; the day when our mentor and guide Balkrishna Vithalda Doshi was honoured with the Pritzker Prize; the Nobel for Architecture. He is a pioneer in the field of architecture, with his building like IIM Bengaluru, Hussian Doshi Gufa, CEPT Campus, Aaranya Housing, the Institute of Indology, Shreyas School, etc. and the 1st ever Indian to become Pritzker Laureate. It was very touching to see him deliver his Pritzker Prize Laureate Lecture entitled “Paths Uncharted” on 16th May in front of the other titans of architecture fraternity.

I was fortunate to have worked, studied and researched with the Master himself. The day I stepped into Sangath, the life works of Doshi just flashed in front of my eyes. Located within a garden Sangath is like an oasis for an architect; framed in an informal setting, a central water body and a long uninterrupted space with a lot of knowledge exchange and learning across the tables. Doshi narrating work and life, his experience with legends like Corbusier, was a treat in itself. While having a dialogue he described Sangath; he said “Sangath is not built outside in, it is built inside out. Like how the volume of a clay pot gives it its shape.”

Sangath Architect’s Studio | Image courtesy: VSF

A true mentor, teacher and visionary, Doshi is a complete perfectionist in all facets of life. He always had a set routine to follow, a time to meditate, a hot cup of tea at 11, the serious hours of working and then some time out to relax. Doshi has always been a man of principles, his day started with spending time in his meditation room, reflecting and pondering over thoughts, and ended with light music and conversation with his family. A book and a pen always accompanied him wherever he was; sketching things he saw, taking inspiration from nature, objects and even conversations. For Doshi, every person at Sangath was also a family; always playful with the team with his laughter echoing in the studio, having an inquisitive discussion on architecture or just simply solving problems what others faced.

Sketch of Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT) | Image courtesy: VSF
Sketch of Aranya Low-Cost Housing | Image courtesy: VSF

Doshi believed that what you create becomes the work of art by itself. His ideology of the direct link between architecture and life/nature is the crux of his architectural journey in my opinion. He talks about things which most architects could never perceive, about ruins which have their own charm and how they challenge your imagination and make you discover much more than what you see. His architecture is one of empathy and patience – for people, lives, places and memories.

Doshi’s approach towards perceiving a space is unique in its own way. He will walk into a space with the mindset of a kid, mesmerised by the grandeur of it. While designing CEPT campus he brainstormed like a student sitting in a studio, with the sweet smell of wet soil on a rainy day coming from the adjoining landscape. He believes in the idea of “celebrating life”, as for him architecture is an extension of one’s self. Doshi understood that inspirations came from our everyday surroundings and life incidences.

B.V. Doshi’s letter to Ar. Adish Patni | Courtesy: Ar. Adish Patni

Recalling my time spent with Doshi, there is one very interesting story which comes to mind. He said, “There was a time in World War II, the Nazi’s had captured a troupe of young French soldiers around the age of 12 to 14 years. They were put into prison with a ball and chain tied to their legs. After years of battle when the war ended, they were set free. But they could not run because they did not know how to; having always been tied with a weight around the leg running was something that
never came to them naturally.” The conclusion to this story was that there will be a time when you will have to leave the baggage behind and move forward, creating your own story, opening up to change and doing what you have to do.

Sangath Architect’s Studio | Image courtesy: VSF

Sometime in 2008, he went on a spirited spree of renovating Sangath, repainting the walls, revamping the fish pond, making a gallery for his works, etc. All this was for the Pritzker Jury and in the sheer excitement of winning one. Sadly it wasn’t this time; disappointment was spread across the studio, but he took this as a challenge, to work harder and achieve it.

Doshi continued his journey, making himself a better person, talking about life and architecture and the science of karma. He talked about how a person’s aura defines his work, how the personality shapes the design you make and how architecture has a direct connection with the life you live. He often compared the human face with a building section, explaining how one half of the face is not identical to the other half; similarly how one half of the section need not be the mirror of the other half. It can be tweaked from one side and add another dimension to the design.

B.V. Doshi’s letter to Ar. Adish Patni | Courtesy: Ar. Adish Patni

Today, his ideas of life, his belief in energy and his dedication towards his work, rewarded him with the highest honour an architect can ever get. His life is an example of the success one can achieve by sheer willpower and a zeal to do it right.


About the author:

Named amongst the World’s Top 100 young architects by Archiprix Netherlands in 2013, Ar. Adish Patni has worked with master architects such as Ar. B.V. Doshi and Sir Peter Cook before starting his own studio as Atelier Adish Patni.

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