Our Michael Tunkey has authored a new piece for Common / Edge – the blog of a non-profit organization committed to reconnecting architecture and design with the public its meant to serve – focused on The Genius, Heart and Humility of Indian Architect B.V. Doshi. In the piece, Tunkey reflects on the significance of Doshi receiving this year’s Pritzker Prize and also shares his personal thoughts and experiences with the architect’s work. Below are key excerpts and the full piece can be read online.
On the significance of Doshi’s Pritzker Prize
For the Pritzker Prize – the profession’s highest honor – to be awarded to a 90-year-old academic urbanist who spent his long career primarily teaching architecture students and serving poor communities in India is a stunning development. To be fair, the caricature of Pritzker winners as arrogant, scarf-wrapped, Euro-American, Starchitects is overblown and outdated. Recent winners such as Alejandro Aravena, Wang Shu, and Shigeru Ban, are connected in their mutual dedication to serving poor and displaced communities through innovative culturally authentic designs. But even accepting this nuance, Doshi is fundamentally different from recent winners.
For starter’s, Doshi’s work is not obviously sexy. It doesn’t feature complicated geometry. It’s not fashionable to current. Until the recent award announcement, there were no Doshi projects splashed across the architecture blogs and in design magazines. In a world where awards go to the most photogenic projects, Doshi’s work is antithesis: it’s difficult to capture with a camera – it’s not “Instagrammable.”
On Doshi’s abilities
Doshi’s exceptionalism as an institution builder and educator can be inferred through Jitendra’s own experience as a student. I’d challenge any current university professor or administrator to imagine what talents would be required to: dream up a new school, raise funding for land and construction, coordinate with government agencies, attract the world’s best teaching talent, invent a unique and culturally relevant pedagogy, convince students (and their parents) to risk an untested model, and to grow decade-by-decade into one of the country’s most renowned institutions. Doshi did this in his 30s, while also teaching his own courses, and starting his professional practice. Hard to imagine.
On Doshi’s brilliance as a communicator
The nature of Doshi’s communication style is so utterly thoughtful, respectful, and philosophical that it’s hard to even relate to the all-caps opinion diatribes that dominate contemporary design discussions on social media and online comments sections. In that context, it’s easy to see how Jitendra and many other Doshi students see him as an almost spiritual leader within architecture.