The squares and circles of Louis Kahn’s exposed red-brick architecture at IIM Ahmedabad (IIM-A) are perhaps as famous as the premier management institute itself. Constructed in the 1970s, the buildings on the heritage campus still attract architects and enthusiasts across the globe to experience the modernist idea conceived in Ahmedabad. Thus, when IIM-A started development funds in 2014, restoration of the heritage buildings was on priority. Vikram Sarabhai Library (VSL), the four-storey building right at the centre of Louis Kahn Plaza (LKP), was inaugurated on Monday, March 11, 2019, after four-year restoration process by Mumbai based Somaya & Kalappa Consultants (SNKC) — the firm behind restoration of iconic buildings such as St Thomas Cathedral, Rajabai Tower and Bombay House in Mumbai among others. The project’s budget was INR 20 crore, donated by Tata Consultancy Services (TCS).
“It is the very first case where the 20th-century heritage building is restored, rehabilitated and upgraded to the fullest extent in India. The building and the campus are closely associated with the history and legacy of Louis Kahn. We had roped in IIT Madras for structural analysis,” said Brinda Somaya, Principal Architect, SNKC. H Anil Kumar, Librarian, VSL, said that the re-imagined building has a number of new features including disable-friendly access, stress on digital aspects and automation and multi-functional spaces for the students. According to IIM-A officials, it is the first of the overall restoration of Red Bricks — how the original buildings of IIM-A are identified — project. Officials mentioned that since 2014, over INR230 crore has been raised or pledged by alumni, corporate and others for development of the overall campus out of which over INR 70 crore, including INR 20 crore for VSL, is earmarked for the restoration project.“Next would be the two wings of LKP, housing classrooms and faculty rooms, at an approximate budget of INR 50 crore. The budgets have already been allocated for different parts of the building as restoration would take place in a phase-wise manner,” said a senior IIM-A official.
A number of challenges
The restoration team mentioned that there were a number of challenges ranging from brick to 2001earthquake-affected structure. They employed a technique identified as crack stitching to repair the damaged portions. At some portions, they replaced the bricks completely, including in the brick circles and flat arches. Instead of going for red terracotta bricks, the team sourced the bricks that matched the colour of original work. The original steel frames were also taken out to replace it with superior stainless steel material, providing better support and longevity to the structure.
Source: The Times of India