The supreme point is safety… the IIM Ahmedabad Board is very clear says Director

‘The Supreme Point is Safety… the IIM Ahmedabad Board is Very Clear’ Says Director

NEARLY two years after the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA) faced opposition from various sections, including children of famous American architect Louis Kahn, for its decision to pull down dorms on its old campus, institute director professor Errol D’Souza Thursday announced that the institute will not take up any further restoration work but will reconstruct dorms, faculty blocks and classroom complex, keeping Kahn’s legacy.

In an interview with Ritu Sharma, D’Souza shares more details about the decision. Excerpts:

Has the institute been arrived at consensus from all the communities that opposed its decision in December 2020?
We have listened to various voices… the supreme point is the safety of people. No one will debate on that. We want to continue the legacy as much as possible, which we did over a long period of time… the Board is very clear. It has heard all the voices… We have shared the decision data with the parties concerned… with experts who have been involved with us… We will put it out on the website.

Has the Board of Governors shared the decision with Louis Kahn’s children as they were the ones who expressed strong resentment?
We understand their feeling. Actually we feel more than them as we live on the campus. None of us want anything… that affects someone’s life. I believe they will understand this decision. The data will speak for itself. I don’t think anyone in their right mind would say that we should continue with a structure that is not safe.

Was the decision delayed because of the resentment witnessed in 2020?
No. In fact, it gave us an opportunity to do more work… we went to more experts, we did more reviews. Let’s keep all this new data on the table… The idea was to continue the restoration process as far as you can but now it’s the safety. Nothing you can do to restore.

The IIT Roorkie report is the major deciding factor. They have been working for a few months on this and been on campus doing structural tests… they were involved with us for three years…

Will dorms 1 to 14 be completely pulled down?

Yes, dorms 1-14 would be reconstructed… We would like to keep Louis Kahn’s legacy

How are these dorms on the old campus been used at the moment?

No one is staying there. Dorm 15 is used as archives on the ground floor and some individual offices. It is like a reuse because we are not having any student stay on the dorms becuase of the safety issue. This year when we started, we moved everyone to the new campus.

Will the capacity of new dorms be increased with the increase in number of seats over years leading to accommodation issues?

No… everything will be to keep the narrative of Louis Kahn legacy. Even if it means less students, we are fine. If you look at D-15, after restoration, it had fewer rooms. We went back to the original Louis Kahn drawings in which the ground floor didn’t have students. So we took them out… we are very conscious on the legacy and that will continue to drive us… people across the world should recognise that we have not gone blindly on what we have done. Very careful over the years we have managed the process. Unfortunately, its not been seen that way or heard properly.

How is D-15 different from other dorms as we are keeping it as such while reconstructing all others?

It is not different. We restored it and got an outcome. What we are saying is let us not touch it right now. Let it stay just like the library was restored… The moment it is not structurally safe, we will not use it… as of now let it stay as the legacy that this is the type of architecture of the campus… A lot of history has gone into that including the whole restoration project. We didn’t ask the experts group to do any new tests… at some point we will do those tests and figure out.

Will reconstructed Dorms 1-14 have the same design and height?

I cannot say these details now… All we are saying right now is it is not safe to continue… restoration is not working so we have to reconstruct. We would like to keep the legacy… But I am agnostic because suppose a designer comes in and gives us things that actually fits in with the Louis Kahn legacy… it might happen. So no one can say.

What are these initial ideas?

Initial ideas were very clear — safety, safety, safety. Then can we continue with legacy. We want to continue the Louis Kahn narrative… when RFP (request for proposal) comes out, we will know these answers.

How much money has been spent on the restoration work, so far?

It has been going on for almost 20 years now. I don’t have that data… Cost was never an issue… we always said we would do all that takes to keep that legacy going and have done that. Even now we are not looking at cost. We are very conscious of safety… At some point if cost becomes the big thing may be we will start to consider.

Where has been this major funding from?

They were corporates such as TCS that did the library. Some of it were internal funds some of it other corporates or alumni… We think people will support the journey when they see the growth.

How much construction work has been completed on the new campus?

A lot of has been completed. We are hoping to inaugurate in a couple of months. It got delayed because of Covid.

Courtesy : The Indian Express

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