In early January, the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad (IIMA) canceled plans to demolish the 18 dormitories designed by Louis Kahn that are part of the historic campus he created there in the early 1960s. The news came after a December 23, 2020, story about the threatened destruction, by historian and critic William J.R. Curtis—who also raised the alarm in other publications—followed by an international outcry.
Kahn’s children had protested the demolition in a letter to the IIMA board, as did scholars at the Getty in Los Angeles and New York’s Museum of Modern Art. The UK-based Architectural Review circulated an online petition to stop the buildings’ destruction, and articles condemning the IIMA’s plans appeared in the Indian press.
Objections arose after the IIMA announced that the dormitories, integral to Kahn’s overall design of the complex, would be replaced with buildings by an unnamed architect on the same footprint. IIMA was the brainchild of the industrialist and philanthropist Vikram Sarabhai, who realized in the late 1950s that India needed to train its own cadre of managers and entrepreneurs as part of its ongoing modernization.
Kahn’s project contains two brick sectors locked together: the block and court containing the Vikram Sarabhai Library, Lecture Halls, and Administration; and the dormitories arranged as a sort of diagonal flotilla in which the buildings and the spaces between are given equal emphasis.
The school’s initial decision to raze the dormitories remains murky. The Mumbai firm SNK (Somaya and Kalappa Consultants) completed an award-winning and much-praised renovation of the library block in 2017. It was understood that the dormitories would also be restored by SNK before the administration of IIMA announced the intention to raze them. It remains to be seen if SNK will now be retained to restore the buildings.