Environment and Ecology
Between Notion and Reality | B.V.Doshi
LA 54
Excerpt from paper read at the seminar, 'Space and Contemporary Architectural Approaches: Inner and Outer Space', organized by Indira Gandhi National Centre for Art, New Delhi. The article appeared in 'DESIGN' | April-June 1987 Issue
Balkrishna V. Doshi, one of the most influential and pioneer architects of post-independent India, is now a Pritzker laureate. He is a passionate believer in the soul and spirit of architecture rather than only its form and function.

Here, we share excerpts from one of Doshi's lectures that he delivered more than three decades ago, where he shares his philosophical underpinnings about the experiential architecture, the world within and the idea of timelessness in architecture.

Incessant struggle against constraints has helped us achieve things undreamt of. Today we command knowledge of space far beyond what the eye can see. We command means of travel and communication linking any two points not only on earth, but also in stellar space. But somewhere in this process of exploring the external space i.e. reaching out, we have stopped exploring the space within-that of our being as a microcosm within the external macrocosm. This state reminds me of a quotation from Bhartruhari- once a King-who said that..."What if you have secured the fountainhead of all desires? What if you have put your foot on the neck of your enemy, or by your good fortune gathered friends around you? What, even, if you have succeeded in keeping mortal bodies alive for ages? Tatahkim? What then? The question is not of deprecating the success and the conquest of man but to wonder about the benefits it has given to man and the price he has to pay for all this." Architecturally speaking, our physical environment is being increasingly designed on the basis of utilitarian needs. This has, as we can witness, given rise to frustrations, doubts and insecurity. The "faceless", the functional, the mechanical machine or action has become our God. The ancient notions of the unity of idea, unity of approach and unity of faith have ceased to be our premise for thoughts and actions. The value of the true, the good and the beautiful are ignored. In such circumstances, how can we even think of the value of the sacred. Further, since we do not know the value of the sacred, we cannot even think of the inner-self which is the seat of our true happiness.

And without this how can we ever talk of a lasting quality of architecture -because architecture is neither a purely physical, a purely intellectual, nor a purely psychic phenomenon but is a comprehensive manifestation of all three, capable of influencing the lives of individuals and communities. Not often in an architectural creation are all these aspects understood and translated into a design concept, and the built-form conceived accordingly and emphasis on just one will eventually necessitate changes in the built form as gradually the awareness of the others is felt. When it does happen, though, the result not only rises above the mundane level but is sanctified and revered by generations of the community.


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