“Contextuality is the study of consciousness which is deeply connected to what we feel in and around.” – Samruddhi Chaphale
Like our conscience is relative to everything around, originality and quality are relative aspects to our consciousness.
Therefore, for me, ‘Contextuality’ and ‘Relativity’ go hand in hand.
Taking an example from the discussion that happened in our class;
An old Chawl building, where let’s say my grandfather used to stay might be fitting to the context but with time and need, the chawl now functions as a very new concept of nuclear modular design. This, very precisely points to the fact that contextuaity is a portrayal of inter-connectivity between time, space and people.Considering that the change is mandatory, it does not mean that we lose our foundation which is the stronghold of any building in any context.
To go much deeper into the meanings and forays of this word ‘Contextuality’, I have done a detailed study on one of Balakrishna Doshi’s most famous pieces of architecture, the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore. Moreover, I have done a study of its counterpart in Ahmedabad designed by the great Louis I. Khan to establish the context pertaining to the program of a management campus and it’s working.
The website of the institute says, and I quote, “The campus is a destination and a pilgrimage for students of Architecture and practicing architects, with the architecture of the academic and administration blocks becoming a case study.”
There might be just one out of a thousand people who’ll disagree with this, but I am not one of those.
In one of his interviews, B.V. Doshi said, “In Fatehpur Sikri, the presence of the buildings is strongly felt in spite of their being relatively small, a factor of special interest to me.”
This cemented the fact that Doshi derived inspiration from Fatehpur Sikri while designing the IIM-B campus.
Getting on with the study.
Bangalore’s climate is very comfortable and the city is full of lush green lawns and tress. So Doshi decided to include ‘external spaces’ in the campus in order to create a link and connect with the outside. The local traditions of pavilion-like spaces, courtyards, and ample provisions for plantations are holistically incorporated in the campus.
What is ironical about the building/ campus is how it creates a sense of ‘dichotomy’ in my mind. The local touch of the elements is amalgamated (?) with long and unusually high (triple storied) corridors.
Personally, when I think of open spaces, greenery, lawns, et cetera I sure do not visualize a majestic stone structure in the name of an educational building juxtaposed to the lush. Yet, when you look at the rough blocks of local gray granite or exposed concrete relative to the lawns, the rigid lines of this dichotomy seems fairly blurred.
IIM-B in the material context is a tribute to stone. The stone texture allows the Climbing Ivy or Kalati (stone climber as called in Kannada) to grow to hug the wall, which adds to the already infinite greenery and is very suitable for Bangalore’s Climate. Stone wasn’t used merely because it was a material of the old times, but because stone is a symbol of power. (Knowledge is power)
With the established notion of knowledge is power, the following few words will give a glimpse of what a management institute deals with.
“Management is nothing more than motivating other people.”
This quote by Lee Iacocca is very significant when it comes to the functionality of a management institute which can be obtained through various resources, like architecture.
But before moving on to the functional aspect of the campus, I’d surface on what is a management college and how does it work.
Management is considered as an act of getting the things done through the efforts of other people by means of constant motivation. It is dynamic in nature and serves the very important aspect of achieving a particular goal with effective utilization of resources at a minimal cost facing the challenges of change and growth to bring about stability in society through innovations and inventions.
To establish the program of a management institute I studied the program and functionality of Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad and IIM, Bangalore alike.
IIM-A is the most coveted management institute of the country. Designed by Louis I. Khan, this building is what I call the pilgrimage for students.
The building program of the campus is divided into the administration zone, library, class rooms, kitchen and dining area, hostels, library, staff quarters and a water tank.
The class rooms in IIM-A are arranged linearly with the furniture laid out in a semi circular manner. Double corridors are provided outside the class rooms to avoid disturbances and the interaction spaces are provided between two class rooms. Moreover, there is an open courtyard surrounded by the library, class rooms and faculty offices. It is called Louis Khan’s plaza in honor of the architect. Louis Khan with IIM-A, was forced to deal with new conditions of a climatically extreme zone with obstacles like glaring light, heat and weeks of monsoon rains.
To tackle these problems, he gave porches light wells, ambulatories as double shell outer walls to filter the sunlight and create autonomous spaces for direct light. Moreover, he was able to produce rich quality and give a strong character to the buildings with the combination of traditional and modernity by using unfinished brick mass with visible concrete piers.
Now, I’ll turn my focus back to IIM-B. Since it is the building under concentration, I’ll talk about it in more detail as compared to its counterpart.
The entrance to the building acts as a buffer space between the administration area and the academic area. The main section of the campus that houses the administration offices, class rooms, laboratories and a library is arranged as datum along a longitudinal axis. The admin block is a G+2 structure and is easily accessible from every building. The class rooms are semi circular or rectangular in plan, and are well lighted and ventilated. The windows are recessed so as to prevent the use of chhajjas. To enhance the interaction between the teachers and students, the seminar rooms have semi circular furniture layouts. The highlight of the whole building complex lies in the fact that the library has natural lighting which reaches as far down as the basement. Interestingly, the staff housing is designed on the illusion of unity in diversity as these quarters are provided in grades, like A-B-C for general staff; D-E for faculty staff; F for directors. The campus with its notion ‘Healthy minds dwell in the healthy bodies’ span a multitude of sports facilities, including an art gymnasium, a tennis court, an indoor badminton court, and a swimming pool.
The beauty of IIM’s architecture lies in its transition spaces. The corridors are designed sometimes open, with pergolas, or covered. This gives the whole structure a very nice light and shade effect. Courtyards are provided as interaction spaces. Some of them are covered with glazed skylights to allow spots for casual eating, and relaxing.
This analysis, I believe, presents a very clear picture of how IIM, Bangalore’s spatial designing is very strong in functionality and its comparative study with IIM, Ahmedabad erases any doubts from our minds as to why both of these institutes are best in every aspect or scheme of things.
As I mentioned earlier as to how originality and quality are relative to our conscience, now I’ll discuss this in light of the sustainable edge that IIM, Bangalore possesses.
IIM, Bangalore has a robust in-house program of water management. Earlier, the campus relied exclusively on groundwater but due to declining water table, this system was established. Capture and re-use of water on campus forms a major part of the water management initiative at IIM-B, as do efforts to conserve water at source. Bio-urinals and water-efficient toilets are all but rolling out in the whole campus. Rooftop rainwater is also captured in sumps, which is re-used in toilets. Apart from water management, waste management system, an on-site bio gas plant and solar water heaters are in use.
Why do I talk about sustainable edge is because IIM-B is a perfect milieu responding to the niche idea of contextuality interrelating time, space and people.
I’ll conclude this essay by Doshi’s words himself that ‘Indian Institute of Bangalore’s buildings is established by a modest relation between the sky, the ground, and the backdrop of the lining corridor, very much like the umbilical cord and the extended family. One is separate, and yet connected, even though tenuously.’
And this is how a building becomes of all ages; Timeless.