Eye should travel unhindered

Eye should travel unhindered
Balkrishna Doshi

Calcutta: In his illustrious career that was crowned on Wednesday night with the 2018 Pritzker Prize, Balkrishna Doshi has left two footprints in Calcutta – Udayan, The Condoville, and Upohar, The Condoville – both on the Bypass, near Santoshpur.

“They are benchmarks in housing infrastructure. They show how social fabric of a locality can be translated into architecture,” said Abin Chaudhuri, a trustee of Kolkata Architecture Foundation.

“When the call came from Mr Neotia (Harshvardhan Neotia, the developer of the public-private joint venture ) in late 1994 to do Udayan, Doshi saab took on Neelkanth Chhaya, Kallol Joshi and me as project architects. Two of us were products of the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology that he had founded,” Sohan Nilkanth told Metro from Ahmedabad.

Udayan, spread across 26 acres, would house low income, middle income and high income group apartments, other than a shopping complex.

“Joshi saab told us the open space should not be broken up and the eye should travel unhindered. Open space is important in a tropical country where people like to spend the evening outdoors. He also asked me to walk the length of the site daily to make sure every square inch of open space was utilised. Otherwise people tend to litter it,” he added.

Thus vehicular traffic-free green spaces were created where mothers could leave children to play at peace and communities could meet for programmes. Udayan was the first large-scale housing project in the city to recognise such issues.

When Nilkanth visited Doshi to congratulate him on Thursday, one thing the nonagenarian said left an impression: “Architecture is not about brick and mortar but about creating spaces to celebrate life.”

“At Udayan and Upohar, we had tried to do just that,” Nilkanth said.