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Will consult international experts on safety of historic dorms, IIM-A writes to alumni

All decisions regarding the 14 dormitories designed by Louis Kahn will be taken in consultation with the alumni, says the letter sent by IIM-A board of governors.

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New Delhi: The board of governors at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) in Ahmedabad Wednesday wrote to the premier institute’s alumni, assuring them that they will hold further consultations with international experts before taking a decision on razing 14 dormitories deemed unsafe for residence. 

All decisions regarding the dorms will be taken in consultation with the alumni, said the letter, accessed by ThePrint. However, the institute said it is their “responsibility… to firmly keep in sight the safety of those who utilise the buildings”.

The letter from the IIM-A board of governors comes weeks after the institute announced it was demolishing 14 of the 18 dorms on the campus, saying they had been found “unsafe for living”. The 2001 Bhuj earthquake and water seepage were cited as factors that have caused the structural integrity of the buildings to deteriorate.

However, the decision was called off last month following a severe backlash from the global architectural community, alumni, and historians who said the buildings — conceptualised and built in 1974 by famous American architect Louis Kahn — should be restored, instead. The IIM-A said at the time that it would consult more experts before taking a decision in this regard.

The source of the IIM-A’s assessment about the buildings’ safety is, however, not known yet. The Times of India reported Tuesday that an RTI query filed by a “stakeholder” to find out details of the structural reports — and the identity of the engineer who filed them — was rejected by the IIM-A. In its denial, the IIM-A said the “information sought is confidential in nature and does not have any public interest”.

Also Read: IIM-Ahmedabad alumni slam demolish drive, say buildings in other nations stand for 100 yrs

‘Further consultations to be held’

In its letter to the alumni, the IIM-A board of governors said the “next steps” regarding the decision on the campus buildings will be taken only after “consultations” with them. 

After receiving feedback from stakeholders, the letter said, the institute has decided to conduct “further consultations with international preservation and rehabilitation experts regarding the feasibility, safety, and sustainability of restoration and rehabilitation as well…”. 

It went on to describe the predicament facing the institute as it looks to ensure the safety of dorm residents, noting that they have received contradictory assessments about the impact the restoration is likely to have. 

“…The advice on seismic safety by one expert is that the restored dorm continues to have safety concerns linked largely to Ahmedabad’s sensitive location, while another expert has opined that the restored dorm can be considered reasonably safe,” the letter said. 

It also pointed to the “financial strain” from restoration, adding that the “initial experiment with the Library and one Dorm (D-15) is that deterioration in the restored and rehabilitated buildings sets in relatively quickly”.

“Critical considerations of longevity also remain open to a variety of interpretations. We will chart out a course of action based on our desire to preserve our heritage and bearing in mind that our responsibility is to firmly keep in sight the safety of those who utilise the buildings,” it said, adding that “expert opinion does inform the core of our decision”.

Also Read: IIM-A decision to demolish historic dorms ‘cultural vandalism’ — experts write to institute


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