The Indian Institute of Mnagement Ahmedabad, better known as IIM Ahmedabad or simply IIMA, is a management institute located in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India. The old campus was designed by Louis Kahn, who was an exponenet of exposed-brick architecture. The most distinctive features of the plan are the numerous arches and square brick structures with circles carved out in the facade. the extensive complex includes a library, teaching facilities and residential buildings.
In 1962, Indian architect Balkrishna Doshi invited Louis Kahn, one of the most influential architects of 20th century, to design the building for the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) in Ahmedabad. It was to comprise a main building with teaching areas, a library and faculty offices around the main courtyard, separate dormitory units for the students that were to be interconnected with a series of arched passages, and houses for the faculty and staff. Kahn’s presence in the 1960s signals a turning point in contemporary architecture in post-independent India. When designing the school, Kahn put into question how and where people learn. Learning was not happening strictly in classrooms, but in the corridors and the spaces in between as well.
It was in his uncompromising approach to rethinking the fundamentals of architecture that young Indian architects found in Kahn. Through his massive yet austere brick forms, Kahn offered these architects a spiritual experience that made them believe they could effectively build the new nation and achieve a balance between modernity and tradition. Built between 1962 and 1964, the IIMA complex now sits on a 60-acre campus.
In much of the same ways that he approached the design of the National Assembly Building in Bangladesh, he implemented the same techniques in the Indian Institute of Management such that he incorporated local materials (brick and concrete) and large geometrical façade extractions as homage to Indian vernacular architecture. It was Kahn’s method of blending modern architecture and Indian tradition into an architecture that could only be applied for the Indian Institute of Management.
The large facade omissions are abstracted patterns found within the Indian culture that were positioned to act as light wells and a natural cooling system protecting the interior from India’s harsh desert climate. Even though the porous, geometric façade acts as filters for sunlight and ventilation, the porosity allowed for the creation of new spaces of gathering for the students and faculty to come together.
Together, Kahn’s rethinking of the traditional principles of India’s educational system along with a group of ambitious industrialists helped create one of the most sought after, influential, and elite business schools in the world. Unfortunately, Kahn was unable to see his design come to fruition as he had died in New York City in 1974 before the project was finished. However, there is no question whether or not his design had completely transformed the way in which modern architecture establishes itself in one’s culture.
Dr. Vikram Sarabhai Library offers excellent learning environment to students and academicians. The library has nearly 180,000 volumes, 600 current periodicals, 700 CDs and more than 2000 working papers and dissertations.
It also provides indexing search services from a number of major databases like ABI/Inform, Econlit and BSP. The IT infrastructure of the institute is very strong. A state-of-the-art network with almost 1600 nodes connects every corner of the Institute.
Kasturbhai Lalbhai Management Development Centre is a completely self-sufficient, stand-alone unit which houses among others a reading lounge, badminton and table tennis courts, a computer laboratory, classrooms, and seminar rooms.
Architect – HCP Design and Project Management, Ahmedabad, India
Project team – Bimal Patel, Gajanan Upadhyay, Jayant Gunjaria, Brijesh Bhatha, Niki Shah, Samarth Maradia, Viplav Shah, Amar Thakkar,
Structural engineer – VMS Engineering and Design Services
Forming an entirely new campus on a neighbouring site for the institute’s expanding postgraduate programme, International Management Development Centre and the Centre for Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship, it was designed by local architect Bimal Patel, son and partner of the city’s highly influential modernist architect, 77-year-old Hasmukh Patel. Like Kahn, Patel focused on circulation by using elevated corridors as the principal ordering device for the whole 55,000m² precinct.
‘When working on large buildings for institutional clients, you know things are bound to change,’ he recalls, ‘so you should adopt a simple organisational strategy, nothing complicated, and then hang everything on this.’ His prediction was right, as a second institute director took over the project and immediately instructed Patel to expand the brief, believing it would be impossible to regard this place as an international institution unless it grew significantly.
‘In response Patel densified his plan, bringing greater intensity to those all-important courtyards, corridors and passageways, in a move that also addressed one of the perceived problems of the Kahn site – that many of the professors saw its ‘empty spaces’ as wasteful and inefficient’
In doing so, Patel deliberately saved a large area of the 16ha site for future development, and arranged the 340 residences, five classrooms, 20 married quarters, six VIP suites, administrative facilities, kitchen and dining facilities, a sports complex, an incubation centre and 100 guest rooms, in a tight L-shaped configuration. Set out on axis with the Kahn campus, the principal spine comprises a generous double-height raised gallery that serves five teaching and seminar blocks.
Behind this to the south is a grid of nine dormitories that adopt Kahn’s diagonal grid, and to the north sits another wing of academic conference and catering spaces. Arriving by car, visitors immediately get a sense of the scale of the campus as they approach the broad north elevation. On a day-to-day basis, however, most students will see the thin end of the site first, as they move to and fro between the two campuses, passing through an axial tunnel designed with such dignity that it also doubles as a walk-though gallery.
‘Exhibiting a similar character trait to the original buildings, the new campus is true to what Patel calls ‘die-hard modernism’ being ‘rigorous in plan and construction’, with exposed in-situ concrete used to shape the geometrically strong forms’
As a contrast, brick infill panels distinguish domestic rooms from academic spaces – a very familiar nod to Kahn that is seen throughout Ahmedabad – and elegant, perforated metal screens designed by renown screen printer Walter D’Souza bring just enough ornamentation to the otherwise relentless pale smooth surfaces.
Despite past criticisms, the client always knew they owned a very important campus. They wanted Patel to provide a new one that would live up to it, expressing the gravity of both existing buildings with a new mode of architecture. Choosing to amplify but not mimic the sense of scale and monumentality of the Kahn buildings has proved an extremely successful tactic, yet even with his clear admiration for the originals, Patel was ultimately unable to resist one or two more overt references, adding semi-circular stair turrets and circular apertures.