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‘The best point is security… IIMA board is very clear’MEERI News

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Almost two years after the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA) faced opposition from various sections, including children of noted American architect Louis Kahn, for its decision to remove dorms from its old campus, Institute Director Professor Errol D’Souza on Thursday It was announced on The institute will not undertake any further restoration work but will reconstruct the dorms, faculty block and classroom complex, maintaining Kahn’s legacy.

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

Has the organization reached a consensus from all communities opposing its decision in December 2020?

We have heard different voices… the highest point is the safety of the people. No one will argue that. We want to continue the legacy as much as possible, which we have done 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 concerned parties… with the experts involved with us… we will put it on the website.

Did the Board of Governors share the decision with Louis Kahn’s children because they were the ones who expressed strong displeasure?

We understand their sentiment. Actually we feel more than them while living on campus. None of us want that… to affect anyone’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.

Did 2020 witness the outrage that delayed the verdict?

no In fact, it gave us an opportunity to do more… we went to more experts, we did more reviews. Let’s put all this new data on the table… The idea was to continue the restoration process as long as possible but now it’s security. There is nothing you can do to restore.

IIT Roorkee report is the main deciding factor. They have been working on it for a few months and doing structural tests on campus… They were associated with us for three years…

Will Dorms 1 to 14 be completely pulled down?

Yes, Dorms 1-14 will be reconstructed… We want to continue Louis Kahn’s legacy.

How are these dorms currently being used in the old campus?

No one lives there. Dorm 15 is used as archives on the ground floor and some individual offices. It’s like reuse because we don’t have any students being housed in dorms because of security issues. This year when we started, we moved everyone to the new campus.

Will the increase in the number of seats over the years increase the capacity of the new dorms causing accommodation issues?

No… all will be to perpetuate the narrative of the Louis Kahn legacy. Even if it means fewer 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 that didn’t have the students on the ground floor. So we have taken them out… We are very conscious of the legacy and that will continue to drive us forward… People around the world should recognize that we have not gone blindly in what we have done. We have managed the process very carefully over the years. Unfortunately, it was not seen or heard that way.

How is D-15 different from other dorms because we are keeping it as it is while everyone else remodels?

This is no different. We restored it and got a result. All we’re saying is, let’s not touch it just yet. Let it remain the way the library was restored… the moment it is not structurally safe, we will not use it… so long as it remains as a legacy that it is the type of campus architecture. There is… a lot of history gone including the whole restoration project. We didn’t ask a group of experts to do a new test… At some point we’ll do that test and find out.

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

I can’t say the details now… We’re just saying it’s not safe to continue… The restoration isn’t working so we have to rebuild. We’d like to continue the legacy… but I’m agnostic because let’s say a designer comes along and gives us things that really match Louis Kahn’s legacy… it could happen. So no one can say.

What are these initial thoughts?

The initial thoughts were very clear – security, security, security. Then we can continue the legacy. We want to continue the Louis Kahn narrative… When the RFP (Request for Proposal) comes out, we’ll know these answers.

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

It has been running for almost 20 years. I don’t have that data… Cost was never an issue… We always said we would do whatever it takes to continue that legacy and have done that. Even now we are not looking at the cost. We are very security conscious… at some point if cost becomes a big thing we will start to consider.

Where did this huge fund come from?

They were corporates like TCS who did the library. Some of it was internal funding, some of it more corporate or alumni… We think people will support the trip when they see growth.

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

A lot has been done. We are hoping to inaugurate in a couple of months. It was delayed due to covid.

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