Indian architect Balkrishna Doshi, the 2018 Pritzker Prize winner, humanist designer, and, at this point, nearly a lifelong practitioner, has been awarded the 2022 Royal Gold Medal by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).
Intended as a lifetime achievement award recognizing those who have substantially contributed to the advancement of architecture, the 2021 Royal Gold Medal went to the relatively young Sir David Adjaye, the first Black recipient in the prize’s 173-year history. This time, the jury—which included Adjaye, RIBA President Simon Allford, Alison Brooks, Kate Cheyne, and Dr. Gus Casely-Hayford, OBE—handed the medal to an elder statesman.
Doshi, born in 1927 in Pune, India, went on to study at the J J School of Architecture in Bombay (now Mumbai) before moving to Paris to work for Le Corbusier from 1951 to 1954, and then back to India to oversee projects in Ahmedabad for another four years. There, he worked with Louis Kahn to build the now-imperiled Indian Institute of Management in 1962. The project marked the start of a long, fruitful relationship between the two. In 1956, Doshi founded his own firm, Vastushilpa, which today has more than 60 employees and has completed dozens of the modernist, yet still sensitive to the human condition, projects that Doshi has now become known for. Above all else, his numerous higher education, civic, and planning projects around India (including the site-sensitive Aranya Low Cost Housing and Ahmedabad School of Architecture) react and passively respond to the country’s climate to put human comfort first.
“I am pleasantly surprised and deeply humbled to receive the Royal Gold Medal from the Queen of England,” said Doshi in the official announcement. “What a great honour! The news of this award brought back memories of my time working with Le Corbusier in 1953 when he had just received the news of getting the Royal Gold Medal. I vividly recollect his excitement to receive this honour from Her Majesty. He said to me metaphorically, ‘I wonder how big and heavy this medal will be.’ Today, six decades later I feel truly overwhelmed to be bestowed with the same award as my guru, Le Corbusier — honouring my six decades of practice. I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to my wife, my daughters and most importantly my team and collaborators at Sangath, my studio.”
As mentioned, the Royal Gold Medal is traditionally presented to the recipient at an in-person ceremony by the Queen of England; funnily enough, Doshi will receive his from Queen Elizabeth II, who handed the award to Le Corbusier 68 years ago.
“It was an honour and a pleasure to chair the committee in selecting Balkrishna Doshi as the 2022 Royal Gold Medalist,” said Allford, who chaired the aforementioned 2022 Honours Committee. “At ninety-four years old he has influenced generations of architects through his delightfully purposeful architecture. Influenced by his time spent in the office of Le Corbusier his work nevertheless is that of an original and independent thinker – able to undo, redo and evolve. In the twentieth century, when technology facilitated many architects to build independently of local climate and tradition, Balkrishna remained closely connected with his hinterland: it’s climate, technologies new and old and crafts.”
Doshi will receive the 2022 Royal Gold Medal at a ceremony sometime next year; the exact date and location have not been announced at the time of writing.