Louis Isadore Kahn (1901-1974)
"He lies here somewhere" are the words inscribed on the tomb of Louis Kahn. That somewhere may well include Ahmedabad, where the architectural masterpiece that this American architect created on about 25 hectares of land constitutes the "heritage campus" of IIMA today. His imposing red-brick complex instils in the viewer a sense of awe and wonder; the interplay of light and shade, the spacious corridors, the open spaces, the well laid out green lawns lined by brick paths, and the multitude of arches supporting the structures, all contribute to this experience. The closeness of the students' dormitories to the academic complex-the two blocks connected by a series of arched corridors and landscaped courts-helps students take the academic dialogue into non-academic spaces. To quote Louis Kahn, "Every time a student walks past a really urgent, expressive piece of architecture that belongs to his college, it can help reassure him that he does have that mind, does have that soul." Students, and others, who have experienced the expressive piece of architecture that is the IIMA heritage campus, will appreciate this sentiment. Nearly five decades have passed since the birth of the heritage campus. And we have initiated a major effort to conserve and restore this important piece in our architectural history, under the stewardship of Somaya & Kalappa Consultants.
Ongoing Conservation, Restoration and Repair Management of the Louis Kahn Buildings at IIM Ahmedabad [Vikram Sarabhai Library Building, the Classroom Complex, Faculty Blocks and 18 Dormitories buildings (D1 to D18)]
This project entails conservation, restoration and repair management of Louis I Kahn buildings at the IIM Ahmedabad campus for the Vikram Sarabhai Library building, the Classroom Complex, Faculty Blocks and 18 Dormitories buildings (D1 to D18).
Started in 2014, Somaya & Kalappa Consultants (SNK) were appointed as the lead architect for this project by IIMA. The first step into the project was to prepare measured drawings of all the buildings. From 2014 to 2015, detailed condition mapping of all buildings were carried out to understand the extent of deterioration in the external and internal built fabric. Non-destructive tests were carried out for all buildings to analyse the properties of the site, soil bearing capacity, state of building materials such as cement mortar, concrete, bricks and reinforcement, condition of structural members, etc.
After the condition of all buildings were analyzed, SNK team with its structural and MEP consultants prepared a conservation plan for restoration and upgradation of these buildings that also included a list of conservation solutions for mock-ups before finalising the project plan and its execution. These mock-up solutions included both â€“traditional and modern techniques of repair and restoration. These were executed at the site, were analysed for their workability, feasibility and finally was approved by SNK and the Client before the final execution was to be undertaken. After this exercise, the logistics and phasing of this project was worked out in detail by SNK. During the building condition study, the Library building from the Main Complex and the Dormitory D15 amongst the other dormitories required immediate attention. Hence, these were proposed to be included in the first phase of the restoration of this project.
Gujarat being an earthquake prone area, a seismic analysis of the Library building and Dormitory D15 was carried out by a team of experts from IITM, Chennai in collaboration with SNK team.
Project execution program and timelines were prepared by SNK in collaboration with IIMA and conservation execution tenders were floated for both buildings in the month of May- June 2016. After detailed analysis and scrutiny of the tenders submitted by various contractors, contractor M/s Savani Construction Pvt. Ltd was appointed for the Library building and contractor M/s Knospe & Co LLP for Dormitory D15. During the same period, Jones Lang LaSalle, IP, Inc was also appointed as the PMC for this project.
Before the restoration works started at site for both buildings, detailed execution plans for their restoration work and phasing was worked out by the entire team of SNK, PMC, the contractors and IIMA. The work for both buildings started in the monsoon months of June â€“ July of 2016. Hence, the internal, enabling and scaffolding works were taken up first, followed by external works to be executed after the monsoons.
The dormitory D15 was among the first set of dormitories that was constructed at IIMA campus around 1964-69. Being one of the oldest dorms, it showed a high level of architectural and structural distress compared to other dormitories. Hence, itâ€™s restoration was taken up as a pilot project. The overall conservation plan and methodologies carried out at this dormitory can be applied as a base to work out the conservation plan for the rest of the seventeen dormitories in the coming phases.
The Dormitory D15 is boysâ€™ dorm that consists of Ground+2 floors with a mezzanine floor between ground and first floor in the toilet block. It covers a built up area of approximately 1090 sqm. The dormitory consists of four areas of use â€“ two common rooms (proposed as per Kahnâ€™s original design), 10 studentsâ€™ rooms each on first and second floor, a triangular circulation lobby at every floor with semi-circular staircase and a service block consisting of pantry, electrical room, bathrooms and toilets.
The conservation plan for Dormitory D15 entails architectural restoration, interior restoration and renovation, structural restoration & retrofitting (including seismic requirements) and MEP upgradation. This also includes restoration of architectural features and spaces designed by Kahn that were earlier altered such as the staircase roof and the common rooms on the ground floor.
The exterior conservation works includes the repair of load bearing exposed brick walls, structural retrofitting, brick masonry crack stitching, removing efflorescence and biological growth from the brick masonry, damaged brick replacement and pointing, treating rising damp, restoring staircase roof, terrace waterproofing repair, restoration of doors and windows, etc.
The interior conservation works includes restoration of internal exposed brick masonry, RCC slabs, masonry grouting, flooring restoration, toilet revamp, re-introduction of common rooms on the ground floor as per Kahnâ€™s design, redesigning interiors and its furniture with the essence of Kahnâ€™s philosophy and can respond to current and future needs, upgradation of mechanical, electrical and plumbing services through installation of new HVAC system, new electrical, low-voltage and plumbing lines as per current norms, new lighting design receptive to Kahnâ€™s architecture, etc.
The restoration work started in July 2016 and was completed in August 31, 2017.
Vikram Sarabhai Library Building
The Library building situated at the apex of the Louis Kahn plaza was constructed between 1968-75. The Library consists of Ground + 4 floors and is divided into two wings by a central circulation area which has two staircases (with a common landing) on either side. The reading hall on the second floor is the main feature of the building with a triple height space and large circular openings. The Library covers a built up are of approximately 4580 sqm.
To work out the conservation plan for this building, intense brain-storming sessions were carried out between SNK and IIMA to finalize the strategy. This conservation plan not only entailed restoration and renovation of the existing structure, but also a complete internal re-planning and refurbishment of the library including MEP services that could cater to its current and future needs. During the meticulous internal planning process, appropriate measures were implemented to make the Library building barrier free. Zones such as silent zone, quiet zone and collaborative study zone were also introduced for the students. The new collaborative study zone aims to create spaces for meetings and discussions that are flexible and transparent for enhanced intellectual engagement.
The exterior conservation works includes the repair of loading bearing exposed brick walls and arches, structural retrofitting, brick masonry crack stitching, removing efflorescence and biological growth from the brick masonry, damaged brick replacement and pointing, treating rising damp, terrace waterproofing repair, RCC terrace slab repairs, restoration of doors and windows, etc.
The interior conservation works includes restoration of internal exposed brick masonry, RCC slabs, masonry grouting, flooring restoration, toilet revamp, redesigning interiors and its furniture with the essence of Kahnâ€™s philosophy and which can respond to current and future needs, upgradation of mechanical, electrical and plumbing services through installation of new HVAC system, new electrical, low-voltage and plumbing lines as per current norms, new lighting design receptive to Kahnâ€™s architecture for the library, etc.
The restoration work started in July 2016 and was completed in November 25, 2018.
REPORT ON INSPECTION, ASSESSMENT AND NONDESTRUCTIVE TESTING OF RESTORED BUILDINGS OF IIM AHMEDABAD: LIBRARY AND DORMITORY NO. 15
By IIT Roorkee September 2021