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Lilavati Lalbhai Library


RMA Architects

The ability to interpret the spirit of a place, in other words, to express its inherent “intelligence”, is a key yardstick with which to assess a work of architecture. The Lilavati Lalbhai Library designed by Rahul Mehrotra for the campus of the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT) in Ahmedabad, India, is an excellent example of an architecture’s ability to do just that. Charged with redesigning the heart of CEPT’s campus, i.e. its library and the open space before it (Shrenikbhai Plaza), Mehrotra decided to align the building on axis with the Faculty of Architecture, the original campus core designed by Balkrishna Doshi in the 1970s. It was clear from the start that the new library would play a central role in campus life, becoming the focal point for the many circulation networks and a symbol of the “CEPT idea” promoted by Doshi. To this regard, it should be remembered that not only did Doshi begin his career under Le Corbusier, he also espoused Louis I. Kahn’s firm belief in the notion of “institution”, collaborating with Kahn on the Indian Institute of Management project, also in Ahmedabad. In keeping with this mindset, Mehrotra has accordingly designed a new library that inspires calm, reflection, and serenity; a place in which the spirit is elevated through the search for knowledge and where the built world is in perfect symbiosis with the natural environment - all qualities already part of the original Doshi vision and familiar to Mehrotra, who, it should also be remembered, studied architecture at CEPT. An understanding of the spirit of the place led Mehrotra to choose a compact square parti and a palette of simple materials, in keeping with the existing campus buildings where fair-faced concrete and bricks abound. In the same vein, the broad stretch of operable louvers on the two upper floors gives an open airy feel to the whole building topped by a gently sloped pavilion roof with...

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