Build habitats, not just buildings, says Pritzker Prize winner BV Doshi
Standing in a high-rise apartment, looking at the concrete jungle all around, one questions the concept of home. What makes a house a home? Is it the habitability of the structure that makes it a living entity? Or, does the value of space take precedence over everything else? Such questions vibrate through the minds of many living in urban spaces today. As space comes at a premium, it would not be wrong to say that such vertical structures, cramped together, are a result of our miscalculations.
If one asks BV Doshi, the pioneer of low-cost, affordable housing in India, the answers at least try to deconstruct our constructed realities, if not paint a crystal clear picture. Doshi was awarded the Pritzker Prize — the highest global honour for an architect and analogous to a Nobel — for his contribution to architecture in Toronto on Friday. An ardent advocate of habitats, Doshi believes his work is liveable, enjoyable and much more amenable to different choices of activities. He considers habitats and the buoyancy they bring to the lives of the people as a key pillar of his notion of architecture.
Doshi belongs to a league of architects for whom it is the essence of the place and not the structure in itself that matters more. But in today’s time, when space comes at a premium, one questions how can architects like him build habitats in such small spaces? Drawing comparisons with New York, the city of skyscrapers, Doshi says he has built habitats in smaller spaces as well. “I have done buildings in very tight cities, like Bhadrawi in Ahmedabad. What you do when you have a tight place is to find a way to see if it has the kind of usage that you’re looking for,” he adds.
But today, when it is all about building structures that can accommodate the burgeoning populace, what choice do architects have? “The big error is that we consider architecture in a very isolated and a narrow sense.”