India’s young architects must be taught to appreciate their design heritage, says Balkrishna Doshi

Balkrishna Doshi
Balkrishna Doshi

India is at risk of losing its architectural identity, because the country’s design schools aren’t teaching students to respect local heritage and traditions, according to architect Balkrishna Doshi.

The Indian architect, who turns 90 this year, said that many of the country’s architects are too concerned with mimicking the aesthetics and practices of other countries, rather than learning from the legacy of their predecessors.

“It is the desire to become like somebody else,” he told Dezeen, in an interview ahead of his Royal Academy annual architecture lecture this week.

This is the reason, Doshi suggested, why so many faceless skyscrapers are being built in India, and why many of the country’s notable historic buildings are being demolished without concern – for instance, the experimental Hall of Nations in Delhi, built in 1972, was razed earlier this year.

“Education is at the base of all these mistakes; we are not making students conscious of the value of things,” Doshi said in the interview, which took place inside the Royal Academy, in London.

“I was here this afternoon and I saw archival material. Where is the archival material in our place?” he continued. “So value is not there any more unfortunately. Because we have not made [students] conscious. It is our fault, the fault of education.”

“I would take students into the city and ask them in their mother tongue to explain what they were thinking,” he explained.

“For example, I had a class that would say: ‘This is a veranda, this is a terrace, this is a balcony’. And I would say, now tell me that in your mother tongue. Then they said: ‘This is the place where we sat, we chatted, we exchanged ideas’. And when they talked about windows, they said: ‘This is where we look from outside in and inside out’. So a window became something of curiosity.”

By contrast, he said, most architecture schools are “looking at the body of a skeleton, and not what is below the flesh”.

“Certain issues are timeless, like how do you articulate space? Or how do you get the sunlight inside and work the shadows? I think that connection has been there from long back, but [other schools] have not been teaching that,” he said.

“It’s a question of what affects you and what triggers in you a sense of being alive. I think that’s very important. [They] are not making people alive,” he added.


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