After facing severe backlash, the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, on Friday withdrew its proposal to demolish 14 student dormitories on the main campus, designed by iconic American architect Louis Kahn, PTI reported.
An official statement by the Chairman and Members of the Board of Governors of IIM-A said the institute had decided to be “sensitive to the feedback from some stakeholders who are not in agreement” with the decision to demolish the structures and replace them with new ones.
“We are therefore withdrawing the Expression of Interest that was put out,” the statement added. “We will deliberate on the feedback received, re-evaluate the options, consult the best global conservation structural experts, and chart out a course of action, which the institute will communicate in due course.”
Although the IIM-A recognises that it has to nurture a cultural legacy, there can be “no compromise on the safety of residents of the dorms”, it added. Therefore, the institute said it would try to come up with the “best answer to the issues of how to cater to our responsibility to a significant legacy”. “...the safety of those who utilize the buildings as well as being in tune with the needs of the future”, it added.
Gujarat’s Principal Secretary of Education Anju Sharma, however, told The Indian Express she had no information about the change in plans. “I do not have any communication or information of such a statement issued on behalf of all members of the Board of Governors [of IIM-A],” Sharma said.
The red-brick dormitories and other buildings on IIM-A’s old “heritage” campus are among Louis Kahn’s most famous works of modernist architecture. Kahn’s structures are known for their distinct play with geometry, light and shadows. His buildings in Ahmedabad are studied by architecture students across the world.
IIM-A says that the 14 dormitories have been unsafe for residents after suffering structural damage with age and water seepage, particularly after the 2001 earthquake in Gujarat. The Institute had planned to rebuild them in a style in sync with Kahn’s, but designed to accommodate at least 800 students instead of the 500 that they currently house.
In a 11-page letter on December 25, IIM-A Director Errol D’Souza said the dorm buildings “were unlivable”. D’Souza’s letter to the institute’s alumni was sent a day before the deadline for submission of Expression of Interest to select a firm that would’ve designed the new buildings to accommodate more students.
This decision was severely criticised for the past week, not only by architects and conservationists in India and abroad, but also by Kahn’s children. Last week, 669 architects, academicians and other experts from 118 universities in 30 countries sent an open letter to IIM-A’s director and governing council, beseeching them to cancel their plan to demolish and rebuild 14 out of 18 student dormitory blocks constructed in the 1960s.
“It seriously jeopardises the legacy of Louis Kahn and of modernist architecture, especially in the Indian subcontinent, where there is a dire need for the conservation of modernist heritage,” the letter said. “We hope you act out of empathy and wisdom to conserve an irreplaceable work of architecture for the present and posterity.”