Famous Indian architect to be featured in Chicago exhibition

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Balkrishna Doshi, Aranya Low Cost Housing, Indore, 1989. (Photo Courtesy: Vastushilpa Foundation, Ahmedabad via Wrightwoo659)

An Indian architect of international fame is to be featured at a prestigious art gallery in Chicago starting in September till the end of the year.

The works of Balkrishna Doshi will be exhibited at Wrightwood 659, the Chicago art space devoted to presenting “socially engaged” art and architecture from Sept. 9 to Dec. 12, 2020.

The exhibit, entitled, Balkrishna Doshi: Architecture for the People, is the first U.S. exhibition devoted to the work of this pioneering Indian architect. In fact, Doshi’s exhibition is being used as the first feature at the reopening of Wrightwood 659 which describes him as a “visionary Indian architect, urbanist, and teacher, recipient of the 2018 Pritzker Architecture Prize, which was established by the Pritzker family of Chicago in 1979.

The exhibition “illuminates Doshi’s melding of modernism with traditional Indian techniques and forms, yielding a body of deeply humanist work,” says a press release from Wrightwood 659.

Doshi, born in 1927, in Pune, Maharashtra, worked with both Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn in the 1950s, and later adapted the principles and forms of modernism he absorbed from these experiences into his work with local cultures, traditions, and environments, from low-cost housing and academic institutions, to urban planning projects. Organizers note that in so doing, he both redefined modern Indian architecture and shaped new generations of architects.

This international traveling exhibition was organized by Vitra Design Museum and the Wüstenrot Foundation, in cooperation with the Vastushilpa Foundation.

Balkrishna Doshi, Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, 1977, 1992 (Photo courtesy: Iwan Baan 2018 via Wrightwoo659)

“The values inherent to Balkrishna Doshi’s work—inclusiveness and a deep respect for the those who live, work, or study in his buildings—are particularly resonant today, when issues of justice and equity are at the forefront of global consciousness,” Jim McDonough, executive director of Alphawood Foundation Chicago, the exhibition sponsor, is quoted saying in the press release.

The exhibition is organized around four primary themes central to Doshi’s work, and focuses on some 20 of the architect’s most significant projects dating from 1958 to 2014.

Full-scale models will be on display which make the physical experience of Doshi’s buildings more real, and these will be accompanied by a wealth of material from the architect’s archive and studio, including drawings and models, artworks, sketches, videos, photography, and more. Exhibition-related films will be available on the Wrightwood 659 website.

The thematic sections are as follows.

Home and Identity: This section of the exhibition shows how, inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, Doshi developed approaches to social and experimental housing that were designed to adapt to residents’ changing needs. The Aranya Low Cost Housing Project (1989) in Indore is used as an example of that genre.

Doshi’s own house, known as “Kamala House” (1963), is also explored here, providing an example of residential planning on a smaller scale.

Balkrishna Doshi in collaboration with M.F. Husain, Amdavad Ni Gufa art gallery, Ahmedabad, 1994. (Photo Courtesy: Iwan Baan 2018 via Wrightwoo659)

Creating a Livable City: Here the exhibition moves to public buildings and large-scale cityplanning projects. An early example is the Institute of Indology in Ahmedabad (1957–1962; modernized in 2011–2012), built to house ancient manuscripts, a research center, and a museum. It was one of the first projects Doshi designed following his work with Le Corbusier.

Doshi’s masterplan and urban design guidelines for Vidhyadhar Nagar (1984), a residential development of 150,000 dwellings located on approximately 865 acres in the outskirts of Jaipur, are also examined in this section.

Shaping an Integrated Education: Doshi’s position as a leading educator is highlighted in “Shaping an Integrated Education.” A key project here is the campus of the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT) in Ahmedabad, on which Doshi realized some of his most significant buildings over a period of 40 years. In 1962, he established the School of Architecture, a multi-disciplinary institution.

While the School of Architecture is sited on top of an old brick kiln that greatly influenced its plan and layout, the art gallery Amdavad Ni Gufa (1994), located on the same campus, is partially buried—gufa is Gujarati for “cave”—in order to resolve issues arising from the local climate.

Building Academic Institutions: Finally, “Building Academic Institutions” explores a few of the many institutional buildings Doshi has designed in the last 60 years. One important example is the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) in Bangalore (1977, 1992), seen here through a range of exhibits including photographs and numerous drawings. The large Lalbhai Dalpatbhai Institute of Indology, Ahmedabad, 1962 Amdavad Ni Gufa art gallery, Ahmedabad, 1994 Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, 1977, 1992 4 campus of this institution was built over a period of 20 years in a process that involved numerous additions and alterations.

Another milestone in Doshi’s institutional architecture is his own studio, Sangath, in Ahmedabad (1980). Memories of his childhood home and of Le Corbusier’s studio in Paris are fused in this building’s vocabulary of spaces. “Sangath” means “moving together” in Gujarati, and today three generations of Doshi’s family work side by side here.

The exhibition is curated by Khushnu Panthaki Hoof, director, Vastushilpa Foundation, and Jolanthe Kugler, curator, Vitra Design Museum.

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