The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) has issued a worldwide Heritage Alert, its most consequential expressional of concern, to amplify awareness of the threat to the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA) Old Campus and draw urgent attention to the eminent risk of loss of the internationally significant buildings that make up the cultural landscape designed by Louis I. Kahn with his team of Indian architects and engineers.
A controversy had erupted when the board of the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad decided to bring down at least 14 of 18 dorms which were built between 1968 and 1978 have problems of leakages from the roof, dampness in walls, leakages in toilet walls, slabs etc. IIM-A’s move evoked criticism from heritage lovers, architecture community and the alumni who had expressed concern about the campus losing its cultural and Kahn’s architectural heritage. With criticisms coming from all quarters IIM-A had to finally abandon its plan to rage the old structure.
“The IIMA is to be commended for the successful restoration of the Library Building and Dormitory D-15, for its decision to withdraw the tender notice for the demolition of the Old Campus dormitories and redevelopment of the dormitory site, and for its willingness to re-evaluate the IIMA’s approach to the future of the Kahn designed dormitories,” said Jack Pyburn, FAIA, ICOMOS International Scientific Committee on Twentieth Century Heritage (ISC 20C) in the alert. The dormitory buildings are significant in their own right and they contribute to the equally significant collection of Kahn buildings that comprise the Old Campus, said Pyburn.
From a campus planning and architectural perspective, the IIMA Old Campus holds great international importance and significance, as for instance do Thomas Jefferson’s University of Virginia Academic Village (1817-1828) in the USA, inscribed in the World Heritage List in 1987 as well as the modern World Heritage listed Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (1949-1952) in Mexico City inscribed in 2007.
Highlighting the significance of the structure designed by Kahn Pyburn said, “All Kahn designed buildings on the IIMA Old Campus are inextricably interconnected. The dormitory buildings are architecturally outstanding. However, absent the context of the larger Kahn planned campus and buildings the significance of the dormitories is substantively diminished. Conversely, if the integrity of the dormitories as a group and individually is lost or diminished, the integrity of the Kahn campus plan, landscape and other Kahn buildings is likewise degraded. It is imperative the IIMA develop its approach to the future of the dormitories by undertaking a Comprehensive Conservation Management Plan for the entire Kahn Old Campus – a plan that identifies and preserves the integrity of the individually significant structures and features and the whole of the cultural landscape defined as the Kahn planned campus.” He also asked the IIMA to place the identification, preservation, and conservation of the important attributes of the Old Campus as fundamental objective when establishing the long-term capacity, treatment, maintenance, and management of the Old Campus.
He suggested forming a team with conservation firm in the lead and with the values, knowledge, and experience to sensitively and appropriately address the modern-day pressures that precipitated the tender request while retaining and preserving the integrity of the Old Campus plan and buildings. “This approach does not dictate that no changes are possible within the Kahn Old Campus. Rather, it establishes a use and design context and process for evaluating the scope and impact of possible and appropriate changes to meet Institute objectives within the historically significant Old Campus boundaries,” Pyburn emphasised.