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Why B V Doshi didn’t get Pritzker Prize

May 30, 2015

Recently someone searched: ‘Why B V Doshi didn’t get Pritzker prize?’

Good question.

Despite the fact that he’s a pretty good candidate:

He has contributed fairly to the fields of architecture and design.

He has the international repute expected of a potential winner.

His philosophical breadth goes beyond or at least equals his peers.

He has a flock of admirers who appreciate his intellectual abilities… Even bitter rivals acknowledge his grand role in developing independent India’s architectural discourse.

He apprenticed under Le Corbusier, designed some prestigious buildings in Ahmedabad – still considered the Mecca of Architecture in India.

Notwithstanding all the limitations of Architecture practice in a newly independent country and a new city he has never been afraid to experiment, sometimes at a great cost.

He embodies his times and his country. Quintessence of Indianity in his persona and in his functioning; when a part of him can easily identify and connect with the rest of the world.

He co-founded the School of Architecture Ahmedabad and Vastu Shilpa Foundation, the research, documentation and publishing unit that was the light at the end of a tunnel for a long time.

He extended his reach to planning and social housing; his approaches proving to be right in time.

He’s been written about, filmed, photographed, exhibited and now has an aptly named autobiography ‘Paths Uncharted’.

He even wears the right black frame spectacles! (See Conrad Newel’s brilliant take on the role of black framed glasses in winning Pritzker Prize)

He is not only an architect, which is a big thing in itself, but a teacher, thinker, entrepreneur, and lot more.

Then what’s missing?

May be because he isn’t White, Western, or Japanese- apparently that’s a lucky pool. (Again, happy to refer you to CN and his analysis of Pritzker winners of past)

May be because he didn’t conclude his designs with the precision and finesse of Masters. The same philosophical perspective that makes him such an endearing teacher and guide perhaps stopped him from becoming obsessed with buildings, at least buildings as an end.

May be his approaches, varied and multifaceted, were so ephemeral that they cannot be readily categorised as buildings by the same architect. However despite some seriously horrendous buildings and some obviously ‘inspired’ ones, he can answer all questions with just the School of Architecture building (and then some)!

Perhaps he doesn’t represent his country enough. Perhaps his layered understanding of nuances of Indianity doesn’t reflect obviously enough in his buildings. At least in their photographs.

In third world, buildings are not expensively built or extensively maintained. They are not well documented and yet change often. Other architects don’t come visiting your cities or buildings on their vacations. Jury members are unlikely to have seen much more than photographs of your work.

But most possible of all: the reason is that he is ever changing. He is difficult to box – his buildings or his journey. He’s tried a good many things, worn many hats. And that, I think is a major hurdle in interpreting his contribution, when it comes to being identified and recognised as a master architect.

And it’s only a guess, but I think that was not his goal either.

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