Ahmedabad is rich in exciting 20th century architecture, designed both by Indian and non-Indian architects.
The prestigious, highly-rated IIMA (Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad) was founded in 1961. Apart from being one of the world’s most respected business schools, its vast campus is home to an architectural complex designed by the American architect Loouis Kahn (1901-74), who was born in Estonia, when it was part of the Czarist Russian Empire.
His work at the IIMA is a set of brick buildings elegantly designed with archways, circular apertures, and shady walkways.Kahn worked on this project from 1962 until his death. The Ahmedabad-based architect BV Doshi, who studied alongside Le Corbusier and was influenced by Kahn, was also involved in the design, although the greater part of the credit for the design should be given to Kahn.
We were lucky to have had a contact who was able to get us permission to visit IIMA, which is usually not open to visitors, who have no business with the institute.
There are many elegant moderns buildings in Ahmedabad designed by the architect BV Doshi. He worked with Le Corbusier in Paris. I feel that his buildings bear the sculptural influence of the famous French-Swiss architect, but they are far more user-friendly. We visited Doshi’s studio, Sangath Studio, in Ahmedabad in late March 2018…
The air temperature had exceeded 40 degrees Celsius when we arrived at the Sangath Studio, the offices of the architect’s firm led by BV Doshi. It is open for the public to view on guided tours conducted at 1.30 pm during the company’s lunch break. We were guided around the buildings by a young intern, not a trained architect. She explained to us that Doshi was influenced by what sounded to us like: “Lecobu and Lukhan”. What she meant was ‘Le Corbusier’ and ‘Louis Kahn’, whose buildings in Ahmedabad help make the city a ‘Mecca’ for enthusiasts of 20th century modernist architecture.
There were many architecture students and architects from other firms on our tour around Doshi’s studio. The students and architects asked no questions but made copious detailed notes. The architectural offices are set in a lovely luxuriant garden with piped music playing. The offices are beneath long white hemi-cylindrical concrete roofs, covered with irregularly-shaped white mosaic pieces like those on the outer surface of the Gufa, a man-made cave which he designed in Ahmedabad. The offices are below ground but lit from windows in the hemi-circular ends of the roofs. Unlike the Gufa, which is only suitable for artistic enjoyment, Doshi’s subterranean offices and studios are beautifully functional. Like Le Corbusier, Doshi designs using modular systems. This is exemplified by a conference room lined with cupboards and drawers whose dimensions vary according to a strict ratio. Doshi also plays with light and shade. Brightly lit rooms are separated by shady ones. The idea being that those who work and design with Doshi should be constantly aware of the importance of light and shade. Sangath Studios provides a visually intriguing and practical environment in which to work.
A famous Swiss-French architect, artist, and writer designed several fine buildings in Gujarat. They are worthy of a visit.
Charles-Édouard Jeanneret (1887 1965), better known as ‘Le Corbusier’ is amongst my favourite 20th century architects. Over the years, I have visited many of his buildings in France, my favourite being his organic, sculptural Chapel of Notre-Dame-du-Haut at Ronchamp. Le Corbusier is well-known in India, which he visited regularly (starting in 1951). In India, he is best-known for designing the city of Chandigarh in northern India.
Ahmedabad, the largest city in Gujarat is home to four notable buildings designed by Le Corbusier. They were built at various dates between 1951 and ’56.
During my recent visit to Ahmedabad, I managed to see two of them. The Sanskar Kendra Museum (1951-56) and Mill Owners’Association Building (1951). Sadly, I was only able to see their fine exteriors, but they confirmed my admiration for their famous architect.
Le Corbusier enjoyed India and her architecture. After visiting the extensive 15th century royal complex at Sarkhej Rauza (on the edge of Ahmedabad), wrote: “You don’t need to travel to the Acropolis. You have everything here.”
Lovers of Le Corbusier’s architecture and of other adventurous 20th century architecture would be well-advised to visit Ahmedabad because many notable modern architects, both Indian and foreign, have designed buildings that now help to adorn the city. I will write about some of these in the future.