Architecture body urges IIM-A to reconsider demolition plan

COA president Habeeb Khan, in separate letters to Prof D'Souza and Chairman Birla, has requested the institute "to seriously reconsider its decision and continue the process of restoration of this rare campus".

The president of the Council of Architecture (COA) wrote to IIM-A director Prof Errol D’Souza and chairman of its governing council, Kumar Mangalam Birla, on Thursday pressing to reconsider the decision to demolish the dormitories designed by American architect Louis Kahn.

Over 600 architects and academics representing 118 universities from over 30 nations signed a petition stating that ‘the proposed demolition “will seriously damage the global reputation of IIM-A” and amounts to “an act of cultural vandalism”.

COA president Habeeb Khan, in separate letters to Prof D’Souza and Chairman Birla, has requested the institute “to seriously reconsider its decision and continue the process of restoration of this rare campus”.

The Council of Architecture, a statutory authority of Government of India established under the Architects Act 1972, further goes on to state that it would be impossible for any architectural firm of repute to engage in demolishing the historical precincts.

“In the context of IIM-A reconsidering its decision and re-initiating the restoration of the dormitories, it becomes impossible for any respected architectural firm to engage with the terms of IIMA’s present EOI to demolish these historic precincts to rebuild afresh in this part of the campus precinct”, the letter said adding that “institutions across the globe in the past have addressed these aspects of heritage and continuity sensitively “which can be shared with you and governing body for consideration”.

The petition signed by 669 architects, academics, scholars, historians and other eminent professionals calls upon IIM-A to embrace a comprehensive plan for conservation of the entire old campus, and lead the conservation efforts of modernist architecture, by way of example.

The signatories include Ahmedabad-based architects like Pritzker Laureate BV Doshi, who was instrumental in bringing Kahn to Ahmedabad to design IIM-A and had also designed the campus buildings, Rabindra Vasavada, noted conservation architect and historian from Ahmedabad, Rafael Moneo, Pritzker laureate and Emeritus Josep Lluís Sert Professor in Architecture, Harvard Graduate School of Design, Spain, another Pritzker Laureate from Chile Alejandro Aravena, and Shubhra Raje, visiting faculty at CEPT University in Ahmedabad.

Others include deans, heads of departments, noted scholars, professors, journalists and historians in architecture and related disciplines encompassing 34 universities from the United States, 18 from the United Kingdom, 13 from India, as well as representations from several other countries across the globe.

Calling to “act out of empathy and wisdom to conserve an irreplaceable work of architecture for the present and posterity,” their petition also says, “Conservation entails skilled labour and is ultimately less extractive than new construction, which is why the most sustainable building is one that has already been built. We believe it would be in the best interests of IIMA not to abandon

these conservation efforts, but instead to expand upon them to include the faculty housing, the Management Development Center, the Ravi Mathai Center, and all buildings on the campus designed by Louis Kahn, Anant Raje, and B.V. Doshi”.

“The dormitory buildings are intrinsic to the historic core of IIM-A and cannot be separated formally or experientially from the buildings around the Louis Kahn plaza (the Classrooms, Library and Admin block). Their rich and complex spatial interweaving create diverse scales of shared, intimate open spaces that complement the plaza’s grand ceremonial spaces…. To keep one and not the other would destroy the architectural soul of your esteemed campus,” the petition further said.

The IIM-A is facing the wrath from several quarters after it floated an EOI inviting bids from design firms to demolish Louis Kahn dormitories on the old campus and replace these with new buildings.

The institute plans to demolish 14 dormitories while retaining four (15-18) peripheral dorms which one sees first on entering the campus.

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