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Facing criticism from alumni, architects, IIM-A says it won’t demolish Louis Kahn dorms

IIM-A received letters from alumni, historians, architects and even the children of legendary American architect Louis Kahn to restore & preserve the dormitories designed by him.

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New Delhi: The Indian Institute of Management (IIM)-Ahmedabad has withdrawn its earlier decision to demolish 14 of its 18 dormitories conceptualised and built by the legendary American architect Louis Kahn.

In a statement issued Friday, the institute’s Board of Governors said they are withdrawing the “Expression of Interest” (EOI) or call for architects to rework the buildings. The EOI that was put out on 9 December had drawn criticism from the institute’s alumni and several architects across the world.

“We are sensitive to the feedback from some stakeholders who are not in agreement with this approach. We are therefore withdrawing the Expression of Interest that was put out. We will deliberate on the feedback received, re-evaluate the options, consult the best global conservation and structural experts, and chart out a course of action, which the institute will communicate in due course,” the statement read.

The Board of Governors, defending the previous decision to raze the dorms, in the statement said that an independent consultant had found the previously restored dorm unsafe for habitation. The experts opined that the restored library would have withstood a major earthquake with minor damage but the restored dorm 15 “will resist moderate earthquakes with limited damage but there will be significant damage with severe earthquakes.”

The Board also said, “Taking into account expert opinions, consultations with a range of other stakeholders and balancing all considerations, a blended approach was considered appropriate. The core of the Louis Kahn buildings – the library, the faculty wings, and the class room complex – and the dorms on the periphery of the complex (Dorms 16-18) would be restored, while the other dorms would be reconstructed. Following this, the Expression of Interest was put out. The entire process has involved deep deliberations at the Building Committee and Board of Governors over the last few years.”

According to a Times of India report, IIM-A Director Errol D’Souza had said that he will recommend an independent entity, such as the Central Building Research Institute, to conduct a structural analysis of the dorms and provide inputs for the feasibility of restoration.

Alumni, architects write to administration

After the director’s letter to the alumni on 23 December informing about the demolition of 14 dorms, several architects and alumni had written to him and the chairman urging them to reconsider their decision.

Conceptualised and built in 1974 by the American architect Louis Kahn, the exposed red brick structure of the building is considered an iconic piece of ‘modern architecture’.

In his letter, the director had previously said, “The earthquake at the beginning of the millennium (2001 Bhuj earthquake) and water seepage through ageing and deterioration of the exposed brick walls has resulted in large cracks in the masonry and periodical detachments of it in fragments. They are unsafe for living in without restoration.”

Following this several notable architects, including the likes of Wiliam J. Curtis, B.V. Doshi and Kahn’s children Sue Ann Kahn, Alexandra Tyng and Nathaniel Kahn, had written to the administration.

The alumni of IIM-A too had denounced the move. About 500 former students have created a WhatsApp group called ‘Save Louis Kahn’s IIMA’. There is also a separate group on Telegram. The alumni forum has around 45,000 members.

Also read: Unhappy with 1-year MBA degree, Modi govt could dilute hard-won autonomy of IIMs


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