Revitalisation of Le Corbusier’s legacy Sanskar Kendra, Ahmedabad

Rahul Jordon

Rahul Jadon

Under Graduate Thesis Project 2013-14
Author: Rahul Jadon
Thesis Guide: Mohd. Sabahat
College: Faculty of Architecture, UPTU, Lucknow
Recognitions: NASA Archidesign Thesis Award, 2014; Kurla Varkey design forum, CEPT University, 2014


Subterranean insulation and cooling tri part window with orientation for effective ventilation and optimum natural lighting

Subterranean insulation and cooling tri part window with orientation for effective ventilation and optimum natural lighting

Architectural Concern, the intent
“You can’t, if you can’t feel it, if it never
Rises from the soul, and sways
The heart of every single hearer,
With deepest power, in simple ways.
Let apes and children praise your art,
If their admiration’s to your taste,
But you’ll never speak from heart to heart,
Unless it rises up from your heart’s space.”

Often we ignore the legacy we have in our hands, not realising how lucky we are to have such inspiration around us or about their inherited values. Very few cities are as lucky as Ahmedabad, a very progressive and pragmatic city, which had insertions/proposals by 3 greatest Master Architects of the 20th Century – Le Corbusier, Louis Isadore Kahn and Frank Lloyd Wright. Not only were these men great architects but also great theoreticians and great visionaries, who went on to be an inspiration to a plethora of young architects.

Le Corbusier, apart from being a man of vision and versatility, is a man who can claim to have mastered the Design-Planning Continuum and also introduced valuable theories to architecture: Le Modular, the 5 elements of modernism; Domino, the Radiant City; and the theory for the topic of concern for this particular thesis i.e. the concept of the Musée à croissanceillimitée (museum of unlimited growth).

When Le Corbusier came to plan the new city of Chandigarh, he was invited to Ahmedabad by its mayor Chinubhai Chimanbhai. Chinubhai and others gave the commission for 5 projects to Corbusier during his first visit, attesting to the financial and intellectual prosperity of the city. Museum of the city and Sanskar Kendra (formerly N.C. Mehta Museum of Miniatures) was a part of an extensive cultural and educational project that Corbusier repeatedly envisioned and never built. The program included not only museum of history but museums of anthropology, archeology, ethnography along with exhibition area, restaurants, open air theatre, etc.

Initial Proposal of Cultural Centre by Corbusier in 1956
The museum was designed in the Modernist style by Corbusier. It was named Museum of Knowledge during designing. It was originally a part of a large complex of Cultural Centre of Ahmedabad which had separate pavilions and areas for different subjects like anthropology, natural history, archeology, monumental sculptures, workshops and depots, folklores in open air. It also included a pavilion for theater called Miracle Box. But out of whole planned cultural centre only museum was built. Its foundation stone was laid on April 9, 1954.

extended architectural gallery

extended architectural gallery

Idea of an Unlimited Growth Museum
A cube stands on pilotis with an entrance from below into the midpoint of the structure, from which the rooms spin out in an endless spiral. The idea of ‘The Museum of Unlimited Growth’, that the architect conceived, is the idea of a small nucleus that grows gradually as per the future demands, into an expanding square spiral plan with parallel halls based on a module.This theory of “infinite growth” was put into action at and Ahmedabad. Later a more refined version came up at Tokyo, underlining the never ending and the ever evolving nature of architecture.

Present Condition of Sanskar Kendra
After the completion of Sanskar Kendra it was the construction of NID going on for this extensive project of Chinubhai Chimanbhai. During the construction, part of Sanskar Kendra was used as an administrative area for NID till the construction of the design institute got over.

The museum of the city formerly was known as N C Mehta Museum of Miniatures. N C Mehta was one of the pioneers in the field of Indian Miniature paintings. After his demise in May 1958, his collection was donated to Gujarat Museum Society, Ahmedabad. Municipal Corporation allotted a portion of 1st floor of Sanskar Kendra, Paldi. The exhibition was housed there till 1991. However, some paintings started showing sign of strain, perhaps due to surrounding environment. In 1985, Museum offered some area for Kite museum. It is the collection of kites from all over the world. lt’s the concept of Bhanubhai Shah. Later the Miniature Museum shifted to LD. Institute of Indology museum has converted into a city museum. Since 1992, museum displays history of city, freedom movement and independence struggle, textile craft, architecture and also Gujarati literature. On the 2nd floor the museum is partially used for elections and storage area for election commission.

“Inadequate design combined with poor maintenance put paid to the creepers; the earth has been removed and the deteriorated trough patched up. The box has become silent (or as expressive) as a cargo warehouse and in absence of a sufficient number of exhibitions.”

Idea of Interventions
My quest in this thesis is to keep alive a saga of constant up-gradation and experimentation. The search for contextual relevance and adaptation over changing times is the preoccupation of this research and design work as I believe that it’s an obligation on my part to reflect upon the legacy that I have received, to remould it (if required) and further reapply it contextually.

The intent is also to take functional retention to a new level, improving upon it in such a way that revitalisation does not act as a hindrance to current on the site which actually act as the real revenue generator for the local care taking authority. The surrounding area lacks open, green spaces or any sort of congregation spaces. So this site would be laid out in a way as to leave a lot of space for congregations, conventions, social activities, haats and play.

The grounds upon which the thesis rest lies in the revitalisation of existing cultural complex and re-interpretation of the long lost but still soulfully pertaining to the fundamental design principles of Le-Corbusier — his design ideals and the way he used to impart the various deep impacts of his designs into his spaces. The project is emphasised at reliving the same old legacy, but in accordance to the existing urban, functional, socio-economic context, current scenario of the city and the surroundings of the site.

Program and its Evolution
The Sanskar Kendra campus is located in fairly populated area, serving the city by adopting various temporary exhibitions, saree sales, melas and other political and social congregations; but  are not being used to its maximum potential.

Understanding the demands of context and surrounding neighbourhood, the program evolved itself with serving the city in a better way. The largely outgoing Guajarati population of the surrounding areas have no place for social interaction in the vicinity which mandates that this site be developed in an extrovert way for that introvert interface to be created. There is also a riverfront development proposed nearby, so a muted emphasis has to be engaged along that direction as well.

Project Users
Program is formulated in a way to accumulate and facilitate every section of inhabitants and visitors of the city.
Analysis of design needs and program:
– the Sanskar Kendra campus is located in fairly populated area and serving the city by adopting various temporary exhibitions, saree sales, melas and other political and social congregations; but  are not being used to its maximum potential and dignity.
– understanding the demands of context and surrounding neighbourhood, the program evolved itself in taking care of demands of all the stakeholders, participants, as well as national and international visitors.
– the largely outgoing Guajarati population of the surrounding areas have no place for social interaction in the vicinity which mandates that this site be developed in an extrovert way for that introvert interface to be created.
– the site is surrounded by hotels and lodges, so tourist inflow to the site is well considered. The provision of different exhibitions, culturally overwhelmed approach with recreational facilities, haats and open urban space.
– a large part of the site is left vacant to accommodate temporary exhibitions, and other social congregation for generating revenue for the self-sufficiency of the project.
– the existing office of heritage cell and AMC are retained for the feasibility of project and it’s a need of the local authorities.
– education and training areas to educate the youth about the city and culture. It’s the only museum which has such versatile collection of city’s heritage.
– Serve as a platform of cultural up gradation and exposure to artists and also as a notion of involvement for those communities in synchronization with modern trends of development and demand.
– Digital library, media and internet zone for attracting the students and youth. NID and other institutes are in close proximity.
– archive section and art lab for digitalising the historical data a national level.
– recreational areas, Haat and open landscaped green space. Project will serve as a potential urban space as paldi area of Ahmedabad lacks in parks and open spaces.
– there is also a riverfront development proposed nearby and declared this area a cultural zone, so a muted emphasis has to be engaged along that direction as well.

office block Facade detail

office block Facade detail

Revitalisation as a Phenomenon
The process includes complete regeneration of site and heritage structure as a potential urban space.That should be physically executively, socially acceptable, economical viable, culturally responsible, ecological livable and architecturally recommendable.

Design Program and Requirements

Entrance lobby
– Entrance hall [forum]
– Information stand
– Ticket stand
– Museum shope [publications, book, souvenirs]
– cloak roomEducation and Training

Education and Training
– Education rooms [3 rooms]
– Head of the educational sectio
– Reception
– faculty staff
– conference room
– lecture studio
– artist office
– workshops

Library complex
– space for book collection
– Readers area
– archive section
– Research section
– Technical room
– art lab
– staff work place
– media library
– internet zone

Recreational zone
– restaurant
– café
– public toilets
– food stalls
– open Haat
– temporary exhibitions

– Permanent collection café
– food stalls
– Space for temp. exhibition
– Office block
– Secretary Room
– Dep. Secretary Room
– Admin Head
– Cloakroom Project
– Co-Coordinator
– Asst. City Engineer Heritage
– Consultant Assistant
– Asst. Manager
– Draughtsman Junior
– Legal Asst.
– Volunteers
– Draughtsman Other NGOs
– Sr. Clerk Peon
– Peon

Appropriation of City for such Interventions
The city experienced the timely development from long back — historical developments to contemporary. The gross product of Ahmedabad was estimated at USD 59 billion in 2010. The RBI ranked Ahmedabad as the 7th largest deposit and credit center nationwide as of June 2012.
BRTS was given the Sustainable Transport Award in 2010.
Ahmedabad is the 5th largest city and 7th largest metropolitan area in India. In 2010, Forbes magazine rated Ahmedabad as the fastest-growing city in India, and listed it as third fastest-growing in the world after the Chinese cities of Chengdu and Chongqing.

Retentions and Reinterpretations of Corbusier’s Ideas
An attempt to complete and complement, to comprehend, reinterpret and reinstate.

The basic driving conceptual strategy was the reinterpretation of the concept of the Museum of Unlimited Growth as conceived by Le Corbusier in which he had envisaged a continuously horizontally growing spiral contained within a grid and a box which would be able to cater to the growing collection of any volume.

The setting of the site and the context inherent therein have also to be in some way incorporated. This context goes beyond just the built and the unbuilt, and veers and ventures towards society, economy, philosophy and culture.

Idea of unlimited being manifested as horizontal expansion in 1950’s but now in contemporary times it is interpreted as vertical expansion due to land scarcity in densely populated Paldi area. As a result, a lot of space would be saved on the ground which will be put to other usage (also in accordance with his principles).

Methodology of Research
The process follows an analytical framework of research from the beginning of the project way back in 60’s and then the analysis of those ideas on contemporary and contextual grounds. The analysis projected to result in suggesting the appropriate retentions and also the reinterpretations of earlier concepts of Le Corbusier.

1. Retentions: dominance of existing masses
At site level which was conceived by Le Corbusier and Doshi

2. Siting and spatial organisation
Conceptualisation and Layering of structures

3. Re interpretation of  theory
The proposed project reinterprets the growth to be vertical to save upon land (ground floor) which would be put to other usage (in accordance with his principles).

The geometry has been retained as puritans which reflect on both the additions on the main building as well as the insertions; based on the principles of dimensional transformation.

Grid and structural system: The 7mx7m grid of the existing building is followed. The construction is a combination of reinforced concrete and free wall system, demonstrating the rational construction system proposed by Corbusier for new architecture of the 20th century using concrete. The material of insertion over the museum building is in steel, aluminium and glass so as not to challlenge the existing brick mass — visibly or physically.

Concept of Open Court
Le Corbusier’S courtyard was symbolic of openness, invitation, connectivity, climate responsiveness, chiaroscuro and axis. The project retains these essence – the feeling of openness is revitalised by opening it towards the river and making it accessible through the open space. Courtyard and pool was placed in centre to invite people from 3 sides so using the same principles of Corbusier, added the built mass in these directions and creating a functionally relevant space in centre to serve as an entrance lobby to new insertions. It also evokes the feeling of deepness while moving down the staircase. The buildings have been retained in all their mystic glory with no physical or visual aberrations whatsoever. The subterranean connections and galleries are climatically responsive, have a sense of openness, the parasols act as a mystical play of light and shadow ensues within. The connectivity of the museum with the administration block by a skywalk is inspired by the same interconnections within the courtyard.

Axis 1 connecting extreme corners of existing buildings to create a resonance with the new insertions.
Axis 2 perpendicular to the axis 1.
Axis 3 oriented towards Sabarmati River: open towards river and inserted inside the building.
– Serves as an exit gallery for new exhibitions.
– Inviting people to entrance court from open space.
– Retention of idea conceived by Corbusier.
– Diverted the public inflow into building towards open space.
– Symbolising the revitalisation of concepts and campus to increase public penetration.

Built Mass and Massing

Site terrain and assets are utilized to create subterranean spaces -Optimized cut and fill - Land management and resources are efficiently used. - earth cooling

Site terrain and assets are utilised to create subterranean spaces:
Optimised cut and fill, earth cooling, Land management and resources are efficiently used

Height of the new office block is restricted till that of the old structure and the spaces inside is veiled behind a mildly translucent wall so that the emphasis remains on the museum building. The massing of extended block is reduced as compare to existing as a respect to the existing building. Lightweight and translucent materials are used in façades to retain the dominance of the existing build mass.

Sustainability Concerns
– Controlled fenestration towards south and west.
– Large opening towards SE to harness cool winds.
– Subterranean structures for earth insulation.
– Terrace gardens and water body in direction of wind to reduce ambient temperature of the campus.
– Landscaping and semi covered areas suitable for city climate.
– Controlled dynamic façades with louvres.
– Double glazed systems for passive cooling and will harness solar energy.
– Intense plantation on site and also inside the building.
– Hard paved areas are minimised to mitigate urban heat island effect.
– Solar panels are used for energy generation.
– Water harvesting system and water bodies are located on lowest lying areas of campus.

The Golden Ratio in Square
exploded viewThe golden ratio has also been used to space allocation in office building, to identify and locate the openings and open to sky part. Functional aspects are also taken care of.


Concept and Design Features

site layout– In Landscape, maximum retention of existing trees and green spaces has been done so as not to disturb the existing ecology. Trees have been retained and scattered plantation has been done along the boundary to create an inquisitiveness or curiosity with regards to the built masses inside.
Economic beneficiary model of landscape: Large open spaces are left to have activities to generate revenue.
– A slightly sub-graded sculpture garden created to connect the museum complex and the Tagore Hall. It is depressed inside the ground to create a mystical enclosure within itself and such that it does not compete visually with the surrounding.
Roof garden has been provided above the museum to compensate for the lack of the same on the ground and in lieu with the Corbusier’s philosophy of roof as a social element.
bird eye view– Water body is added at the side exits of the Tagore hall inspired by the same philosophy of Corbusier’s courtyard pool in the museum. The flow is also symbolic of the orientation of the site towards the river as conceived by the great master for the museum building. The pool and its edges also act as congregation spaces where people can sit, relax and socialise. Vast open spaces have been left in the site for various functions and activities which are congregational in nature and goes with the Corbusean philosophy of minimalistic ground coverage and maximising open spaces.
– Mounds have been created near the boundary to exemplify the built-unbuilt within the site. It not only creates a beautiful sitting space but also mystifies the scenery as seen by a passersby.
Large open spaces retained in the site for social activities viz a viz – morning walk, gatherings, playing area, Haat and other socio-economic and cultural activities. The intended usage of the site changes with time.

Functional Dynamism at the Site Level
Early Mornings: jogging, exercises, playing, heritage walk, cultural initiatives, small activities and yoga, etc.
Small vendors: fruits and vegetable vendors, milkman, newspaper, tea, etc.
Afternoons: Visitors to the museum and exhibitions, cafe or audience for watching performances in Tagore Hall, students for trainings, workshops, Demos, reading, research and office people and Art lab.
Evenings: Children, people, vendors – for playing, exercising, people, Haat- small time vendors, shoppers, people to and fro from the riverfront, fares etc. open exhibition, informal events.
Nights: conventions, celebrations, fetes and fares, social gatherings or casual strolls

Re instate: Visual Appearance
The lighted gallery provides the building with a new envelope and establish a visual relation with the people. That will enhance the overall appearance of the building and increase the foot flow into the campus, which is indeed a need of the campus for revitalisation.And also as a new interface between outer environments and the campus.

Controlled lighting and façade. solar window systems are installed for harnessing solar light

Controlled lighting and façade. solar window systems are installed for harnessing solar light

Lightweight Façades
Visual elegance with modern technology
A second-skin façade is a reversed climate façade with a ventilated air cavity between an inner sheet of insulated glass and an outer sheet of single layer glass. The distance between the two skins can be between 0.2 and 2 meters depending on the concept and system detailing. Sunscreens are usually fitted in the air cavity directly behind the outer sheet and the cavity can be naturally ventilated utilising the Venturi Effect to supply air to inside windows.

Double façade for passive coolingand ventilation

Double façade for passive coolingand ventilation

Façade provides a semi-permeable membrane that allows the building to breathe, while keeping out the elements. Modern alternative for climate of Ahmedabad.

Utilising the principles of bioclimatic architecture in façade design, it looks for real ways to exploit climate or, more specifically, the ambient energies available in the form of light and heat: more natural light to enhance the connection between people and their surroundings and to reduce the running costs of artificial lighting.

About the Author
Rahul Jadon is an architect, graduated from Faculty of Architecture, UPTU (formerly GCA Lucknow) in 2014, and is currently pursuing Masters from IIT Roorkee. Rahul has worked with Ar. Yatin Pandya and has collaborated with leading architecture firms of north India on various projects and competitions. He has won national recognition for his works including Birla Yuvaratna Award, AD ET-Edge award and NASA- Archidesign Thesis of the year award 2014. He aced Archumen Architectural Quiz 13-14 zonals and came 2nd runner up in nationals. His graduation thesis project was recognised at various platforms and published in multiple research journals. He was invited to Cept University and presented in Karula Varkey Design Forum 2015.

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