B K Joshi (1928-2016), in Memoriam
By Praveen Bavadekar
Like a missionary spreading the word of God to the deepest and remotest of wilderness, B K Joshi made it his life’s work to usher in a modernity of thinking and living to this small part of “moffusil” India that many of us call home – Belgaum. This missionary zeal defined his relation to architecture throughout his life.
Nehru and his choice of Le Corbusier for the new city of Chandigarh defined what modern India’s architecture would be, and B K Joshi was a part of the vanguard of architects who took upon themselves the task of shaking India from its colonial trappings and forcefully pushing it into a new democratic modern aesthetic.
It was this very aesthetic that defined my late 70’s and early 80’s childhood. His buildings were peppered all over the picturesque undulating landscape of the then fledgling neighbourhood Hindwadi, where I grew up. Even to my yet untrained juvenile eyes, his buildings stood out for their clean proportions and clarity.
His was an aesthetic of clean simple volumes lit abundantly with natural light, elegant concrete cantilevered porches, swooping inclined roofs, seamless mosaic/ natural stone floors and a keen attention to the minutest of detail. It was a far cry from the loud cacophony of materials and shapes that is masquerading as architecture in post-liberalisation India.
When I finally did meet this unassuming, quietly sophisticated, suave, soft spoken gentleman about a decade back, I realised that his designs were but a manifestation of his own personality.
We had many conversations over the years and I learned a lot from him. I was always indebted to him that he made this part of the world “architecture-literate” and so, in a way, he paved the way for me to practice the profession I chose, in this little town that I was born in, but more importantly, from him I realised that true learning never stops.
His quest for knowledge was insatiable and whenever we met, he always wanted to know about the latest books on architecture or the contemporary architects who were making waves in the west.
Once, many years ago, when he was maybe eighty, I asked him about the personal favourite among his many house designs, he quite simply and truthfully answered that he didn’t think he had any one perfect example yet. It floored me and I have never been smug about anything I have designed ever since.
BK will be remembered and cherished not only by his family and friends but also in ways that even he may not have fathomed.
He will be remembered by persons like me, who’s life he inadvertently touched, first through his buildings and then personally through his conversations and anecdotes; By the countless students whom he taught and inspired, and who may still cherish and treasure that one sketch he drew so immaculately on their rough tracing paper; By his clients from the past five decades, from the 1960’s right up till the 2010’s, for whom he sculpted their dreams, and in a way, through the legacy of his built work, he may also be cherished even by the toddlers who are yet to be born but who will take their first step in one of his many beautifully designed houses.
If a measure of a fulfilled life is the amount of people whom you have touched in your lifetime and the lives you will continue to touch long after you are gone, then BK’s was a life truly well lived.
Praveen Bavadekar is an architect / closet writer/ reluctant agriculturist based in Belgaum.