Mill Owners’ Association Building, Ahmedabad

Brutalistic Surface of the building has lead to moss growth on the surface (front facade)
Front Facade – Brutalistic Surface of the building has lead to moss growth on the surface (Mimoa.eu)

ArchitectLe Corbusier 
Year of Completion: 1954
Image SourcesFlickr user DaveybotMimoa.eu and Flickr user Spackle

Le Corbusier is an iconic architect and continuing source of inspiration to everyone. He is the architect of not only many buildings but also India’s most well planned city, Chandigarh. His ideas were wildly innovative and never thought of before. He was invited by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to design Chandigarh in 1951, but he was also commissioned to design a few buildings such as Ahmedabad Museum. Here is the commentary for one his designs in Ahmedabad, the Mill Owner’s Association Building.

The building can be classified as Brutalist Architecture, with its outer surface made of concrete stucco. The building surface looks dull due to the moss and many critiques of Brutalist architecture have argued that it does not age well. This is particularly true for this building, because it is situated next the river Sabarmati on Ashram Road where it is likely to be moist. The moisture is accentuated with the growth of plants along the facade, which obviously needs watering. There is a rail among the plants which acts like a drainage, which has done little to prevent the moss.

Back Facade –  Bright green garden and colourful flowers contrast with the dull concrete surface (Daveybot)

However the dullness of the surface of the building is nicely complemented with the variety of plants and flowers which liven up the facade. The front and back facade of the building, which are in the east and west direction, “break the suns”, and was one of Le Corbusier’s genius. This particular feature is called sun breakers or brise-soleil, while blocking the direct gaze of the sun, it still lets ample light and air in.

Entrance ramp leading to the board room and office cabins (Daveybot)

The entrance of the building takes you to the first floor, where the offices and boardroom are located and the ground floor leads to the service, clerks and canteen area. The ramp also provides a grand entrance, especially with the triple height entrance lobby.  Corb describes the lobby and auditorium as “an open space defined by harsh, angular forms and the auditorium as an enclosed space delineated by soft, curvilinear forms… two contradictory elements that both need the other in order to exist.”

Davey Bot

Much of the office is simple and minimal. There is even a clock which is cast into the wall.

The view from the back facade into the Sabarmati River (Daveybot)
Peering out of the Auditorium into the lobby (Daveybot)
White silk installation in the auditorium (Daveybot)

The sharp angular lobby with the circular auditorium shown above. There is a white silk installation which is tribute to the Mill owners in Ahmedabad.

The auditorium also has an open top, there is an angular roof with glass fittings which allows the light into the room at strange angles making it a playground for all photographers.

Lobby (Daveybot)
The sun breakers doing their job (Daveybot)
Stairwell (Daveybot)
Yellow wall (Daveybot)

Along the sweeping gray areas, there are a sudden shocks of bright colours such as the yellow wall or the bright red door.

Open space? (Spackle)

The mechanism of planting the shrubs can be seen in the above image. The lines along which shutters or cast was laid adds an angular or geometric look to the building. One cannot help but think that the third floor must feel like an open space, a balcony almost, where one can feel like being outside. Ironically, the building looks definitely closed from the outside.

The Mill Owners were the drivers of Ahmedabad’s economic and needed a building that symbolises the modernity they were trying to achieve. They required the architecture to pay tribute to the industry that gave several people their jobs. This building justifies itself with it’s design, the designer, the fore-front of Modern Architecture, and the merging of the sharp and soft.

Similar:  Carpenter Center for Visual Arts, Harvard

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