Controversy erupts over demolition of iconic IIMA dorms

Controversy erupts after IIMA decides to demolish iconic dorms built by Louis Kahn

IIMA has decided to demolish 14 of the 18 hostel blocks built by Louis Kahn after failed attempts at restoration

Renowned American architect Louis Kahn had desgined the dormitories in the 1960s. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Controversy erupted at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIMA) over its decision to demolish a large part of its iconic building designed by renowned American architect Louis Kahn.

The institute has decided to demolish 14 of the 18 hostel blocks built by Kahn after it failed to restore and conserve the heritage building.

The decision has compelled the institute's director Errol D'Souza to write to alums detailing the reasons for the demolition. In the 11-page letter, which the IIMA has confirmed, D'Souza has explained that the buildings are "unsafe for living" and that due to the 2001 earthquake, water seepage through aging and deterioration of the exposed brick walls have "resulted in large cracks in the masonry and periodical detachments of it in fragments".

Built in the 1960s, these dorms can accommodate 500 students at present. The IIMA plans to replace these dorms by building a new hostel with a capacity of 800 students. D'Souza's letter, dated December 23, states despite working with international restoration consultants like Peter Inskip and Stephen Gee, their attempts failed. This is why the institute decided to do away with the 14 blocks, but the four dorms at the front will be preserved.
 
"We have been blessed with an architectural heritage that is ethereal. Our hearts have been ripped open whilst taking the call of doing all it takes to preserve the plaza of the library, the faculty wings, and the classrooms, and the dorms on the edges of the complex so that we do not lose a gift bestowed on us. For a few of the dorms, however, there will be a new history that we will strive to have in a relationship of continuity with the surrounding buildings of Kahn rather than otherwise," D'Souza has mentioned in the letter while appealing the alums to accept the decision.

The institute has already floated tenders to build 18 new dorms. A virtual meeting scheduled for December 24 was canceled at the last minute due to rising protests against the decision. The next meeting is likely to be held in the first week of January.