Architects: Louis Kahn     Photography: Laurian Ghinitoiu     Construction Period:  1974     Location:  Ahmedabad, India

Completed in 1974, the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, better known as IIM Ahmedabad or simply IIMA, is a management institute located in Ahmedabad, India. The old campus was designed by Louis Kahn, who was an exponent of exposed-brick architecture, with the help of B.V. Doshi & Anant Raje. The plan’s most distinctive features are the numerous arches and square brick structures with circles carved out in the façade. The extensive complex includes a library, teaching facilities, and residential buildings.

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While Louis Kahn was designing the National Assembly Building in Bangladesh in 1962, he was approached by an admiring Indian architect, Balkrishna Doshi, to design the 60-acre campus for the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad, India. Much like his Bangladesh project, he was faced with a culture enamored with tradition and an arid desert climate.

For Kahn, the institute’s design was more than just efficient spatial planning of the classrooms; he began to question the design of the educational infrastructure where the classroom was just the first phase of learning for the students.

In 1961, a visionary group of industrialists collaborated with the Harvard Business School to create a new school focused on advancing specific professions to promote India’s industry. Their main focus was to create a new school of thought that incorporated more Western-style teaching that allowed students to participate in class discussions and debates compared to the traditional style where students sat in lectures throughout the day.

Balkrishna Doshi believed Louis Kahn would envision a new, modern school for India’s best and brightest. Kahn’s interests and even critical views on the educational system’s methods influenced his design to no longer singularly focus on the classroom as the center of academic thought. The classroom was just the formal setting for learning; the hallways and Kahn’s Plaza became new education centers.

In the same ways he approached the National Assembly Building design in Bangladesh, he implemented the same techniques at the Indian Institute of Management. He incorporated local materials (brick and concrete) and large geometrical façade extractions as an homage to Indian vernacular architecture. Kahn’s method of blending modern architecture and Indian tradition into architecture could only be applied to the Indian Institute of Management.

The large facade omissions are abstracted patterns found within the Indian culture 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 a filter for sunlight and ventilation, the porosity creates new gathering spaces for the students and faculty to come together.

Together, Kahn’s rethinking of India’s educational system’s traditional principles, 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 could not 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 utterly transformed how modern architecture establishes itself in one’s culture.

Text provided by the architect.