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IN SEARCH OF AUTHENTICITY, The Architecture of Balkrishna Doshi and the Search for Indian Identity

Part 1 Dissertation 1998
Samir Pandya
University of Brighton, UK

The first part of this study clarifies the dynamic and diverse character of contemporary India, and examines the way in which eminent Indian architect Balkrishna Doshi interprets it in his work as a search for authenticity in Indian architecture. Doshi (who was heavily influenced earlier in his career by Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn, with whom he worked) attempts to resolve the conflict between the need to retain traditionally based cultures and the desire to enjoy the benefits offered by global culture. Through first hand site visits, discussions with users and with Doshi himself, his work is examined and analysed in terms of design approach, reference, and image. Also, in relation to Doshi designing from a Hindu viewpoint, aspects of Hinduism that have an immense impact on Indian society are examined in relation to his architecture. These include the caste system with all its hierarchical implications, and the sacred mandala diagram that has significance in the design of sacred and secular architecture in India even today. Aspects such as symbolism, ritual and time are also discussed in relation to Doshi’s work.

The second part of the study concentrates on the role of Indian architecture and architects in the UK. This section highlights the importance of authentic cultural maintenance for Indian communities (in this case Hindu) that exist outside of India, within a larger dominant culture.
Two key areas are discussed;

1) The way in which an Indian architect practising in the UK may draw upon knowledge of traditional Indian architecture and apply it in a transformed and contemporary state in order to be of relevance to a specific context in the UK, and;

2) An examination of ways in which the Indian community in the UK may be represented in a fashion that would aid cultural maintenance but would also link and draw attention to that community's place in the UK context (and in the process increase cross-cultural understanding).

The study concludes with a proposed methodology of approach to design that one may employ when attempting to achieve a sense of authenticity in architecture. It constantly
refers back to Doshi's work and takes into account the role of history, intuition, context, consultation, sustainability, building life, and emerging ideals in contemporary society. It is based largely around taking a holistic viewpoint of the design problem and realising the importance of relevant conceptual thought and design references when designing within the boundaries of a global context in which constantly changing and contrasting perceptions make it increasingly difficult to locate a basis for judgement.

Selective Bibliography

CRUICKSHANK, DAN (ed) “Indian Identity”
Architectural Review No. 1086 August 1987

CURTIS, WILLIAM Balkrishna Doshi – An Architecture for India
New York: Rizzoli, 1988

KING, ANTHONY The Bungalow; the Production of a Global Culture
Second Edition, New York: Oxford University Press, 1990

TADGELL, CHRISTOPHER The History of Architecture in India
London: Phaidon Press, 1990

Samir Pandya

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