July 22, 2021 1:02:22 am
The Ahmedabad Textile Mill Owners’ Association (ATMA) and CEPT University have come together to revitalise the iconic Mill Owners’ Association building designed by renowned Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier in the 1950s, considered as one of his best works.
As per a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), the two institutions together will create an annual calendar of events appropriate to the space and mandate of both the institutions, and open the building to host events for architecture, design, literary, academics, culture and industry.
“The modalities of the calendar will be worked out in the coming weeks as the MoU was signed only today (Wednesday)… the plan is to make it a vibrant cultural centre and providing an exhibition space for the city of Ahmedabad and its visitors,” Tridip Suhrud, Provost, CEPT University, told The Indian Express.
The building has an air-conditioned auditorium and a hall on the ground floor, two large halls and an open lobby on the first floor and a hall on the second floor. These would be used to curate events, exhibitions and displays. The original design has a provision for a cafeteria, which would be made functional.
On the need for revitalisation and importance of the building, Suhrud said, “When it was built, Ahmedabad had a large textile industry and there was a huge need for such a space. Now, with the decline in the industry, the usage of this building has shrunk. However, we wish to revitalise and repurpose all the state-of-the-art facilities such as auditorium, halls and lobby at the ATMA building, one of the architectural marvels of Corbusier.”
Corbusier came to India in the 1950s on the insistence of then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. He came to Ahmedabad in 1952 when the then mayor Chinubhai Chimanbhai commissioned him to design the Mill Owners Association building and four other buildings in consultation with Surrotam Hutheesing, a mill owners’ leader in Ahmedabad, and Kasturbhai Lalbhai, another leading textile mill owner and visionary.
The building, situated on the banks of the Sabarmati River in a garden, is designed according to the weather and wind conditions of Ahmedabad, and has spaces for work, festive evenings, and a night view. It has been hosting art exhibitions and annual design events.
In a write-up in The Indian Express on Corbusier’s 50th death anniversary on August 24, 2015, city-based architect Riyaz Tayyibji described the building saying, “As we move from West to East, we move between the framed views of the city and the river; we journey between the man-made and the natural. As we travel upwards in the building, we gradually become more aware of the sky. With his masterly play between opposites: city and nature, earth and sky, inside and outside, brutal and humane, modern and archaic — we are taken through a kaleidoscopic architectural experience tied together by movement, light, shadow and silhouette. It is here that ideas and material meet.”
The building, which is on the western bank of the river, now holds more prominence with the Riverfront development and the Central Business District (CBD), the area to be developed along the Sabarmati Riverfront on both its banks between Usmanpura and Ellis Bridge along Ashram Road stretching over six kilometres.
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