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‘Unsafe for living’ — IIM-Ahmedabad to raze 14 dorms designed by Louis Kahn

In a letter, IIM-A director Errol D’Souza says 14 dormitories, built by the renowned American architect Louis Kahn, are ‘unsafe for living due to the (2001) earthquake and seepage’. 

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New Delhi: The Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad is looking to demolish 14 of its 18 dorm buildings, conceptualised and built in 1974 by the legendary American architect Louis Kahn, as they are “unsafe for living”.   

In a letter dated 23 December, Director Errol D’Souza has written to the alumni stating that the remaining four dorm buildings will be restored along with the library, teaching complex and the faculty wings.

The exposed red bricks of the campus are an iconic part of the city’s landscape.   

D’Souza’s letter assures the alumni that the construction of the dorms will be guided by the “imperatives of functional needs, cultural heritage, and available resources”.

“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,” the letter reads.

The director’s letter also adds that the bricks used by Kahn were of “second class” nature and “had an inbuilt efflorescence”.

“We have been blessed with an architectural heritage that is ethereal. Our hearts have been ripped open whilst taking the call of doing all it takes to preserve the plaza of the library, the faculty wings, and the classrooms, and the dorms on the edges of the complex so that we do not lose a gift bestowed on us,” the letter states. “For a few of the dorms, however, there will be a new history that we will strive to have in a relationship of continuity with the surrounding buildings of Kahn rather than otherwise.”

When contacted, a spokesperson for IIM-A confirmed the letter but said no building details can be shared as the architect for the work is yet to be finalised.

Previous restoration

The institute has carried out restoration work even before.  

In 2014, it looked to restore the Vikram Sarabhai Library and Dorm 15 and awarded the contract to the Mumbai-based Somaya and Kalappa Consultants. Several faculty members, however, objected to it before work finally began in 2016. 

“When the former director Ashish Nanda started the project six years ago, the faculty objected to the restoration because of its massive cost,” a former staffer told ThePrint. “They argued that after restoration, the buildings would last only 25 years and that re-building the structures would make them last for much longer. They were, however, restored simply because it was a marvel created by Kahn.”

The restoration of the Vikram Sarabhai Library, which finished in 2018, won the UNESCO Asia Pacific Award of Distinction for Cultural Heritage Conservation. 

IIM-Ahmedabad was built by Kahn, who is known as an exponent of exposed-brick architecture. The most distinctive features of the red, white and green coloured campus are the numerous arches and the square brick structures with circles carved out in the façade. The extensive complex includes teaching complexes, a library and residential buildings. 

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


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