Mr Louis Kahn: Indian Institute of Management
Trip Start Nov 14, 2007
92Trip End Apr 20, 2009
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The amazing thing about IIM is its utter conviction (see also Tom Cruise re. Scientology). Maybe it was from living under John Winston Howard for 10 years, but nowadays I am pretty uneasy with this kind of pathological conviction
In Ahmedabad, I have enjoyed Le Corbusier's buildings - sans the City Museum - because of their transitions from austere and brutal exteriors to playful and organic internal spaces. You are given the sense that Corb is 'letting it go' at places, letting other forces take over. No such submission is made by Kahn, he tells you exactly how you are having your meal: "Perhaps you would like a pinch of austerity with that plate of austerity? And what about some austerity on the side?" I'm not against austerity per se, but feel in this case that it is austerity in an almost sadistic form.
There are some wonderful parts of the IIM complex, notably Kahn's geometric set pieces- The Palatine Hill-esque Library forecourt for example. But there are so many residual spaces between these 'set pieces' that are very strange and bordering on the bizarre. It could be the grounds for a cruel new text: "Designing Spaces for the Encouragement of Criminality (For Dummies)" (copyright pending, P.Ford 2008)
The student housing layout is a matrix of buttressed buildings and courtyards employing some of Kahn's most revered geometries, historical cues and passive surveillance nightmares
Being school holidays IIM looked a lot like those choice photo's of the worlds great architecture: absolutely empty of people. These misanthropic photo's usually make IIM more stirring, owing to the empty 'ruinous' spaces and uninterrupted hard light (or form if you must). Maybe this is the best way to view Kahn's work, like the monographs want us to - with none of those pesky humans obscuring the view and god-damn ruining the space! But I am not so sure. The ruinous aspects of IIM, whilst being so exciting from thousands of kilometers away, are significantly diminished in the flesh. This may seem ironic given the real decay in many parts of the IIM campus.
Ever since I knew of Kahn and his work I wanted desperately to be a believer- Such a powerful intellect and a genuine craftsman. But it is hard to walk the path with Mr Kahn. He obviously saw things that most people couldn't see and operated on them in ways most of us could not understand creating a deeply personal architecture. According to Balkrishna Doshi, Kahn was extremely pleased with this project, believing it to be his seminal work at the time. Evidently, he looked at the same building's that I have witnessed, and yet said: "It is good".