PETITIONING SHRI SANJAY LALBHAI, CHAIRMAN AND DR. BIMAL PATEL, PRESIDENT, CEPT UNIVERSITY, AHMEDABAD.
Background note: The School of Architecture of CEPT University, Ahmedabad, was founded in 1962 by renowned architect B.V. Doshi, who recently resigned from its Board of Trustees at the age of 87. The campus is a valuable work of architecture that embodies a spirit of openness and freedom, in keeping with its philosophy of learning. The past two years in CEPT have seen major changes being implemented in the academic and administrative structures, with the election of a new President. Keeping with the ‘changing times’, all was well until one of the buildings was modified quite arbitrarily.
A simple and provocative installation was made on the campus lawns. When the authorities took it down, declaring lack of 'permission', things snowballed into something much larger. The spirit of this campus had always fostered spontaneity of expression. Incensed that authority should intervene in their freedom, students decided that a response was crucial – to be directed at the bureaucratic barriers that had sprung into place in this new system.
Students could not have foreseen what their actions would trigger. Founder B.V. Doshi was prompted by the events to speak up about the changes that had been made to his buildings. A rapid media storm ensued – fuelling heated discussions on ‘modern heritage’ and ‘professional ethics’. A petition was circulated online by esteemed Professor Neelkanth Chhaya, calling upon the authorities to ‘stop changes to CEPT buildings’. Other ‘appeals for respect’ came forth from international quarters - from renowned French architect Myrto Vitart, and from Liane Lefaivre (of University of Vienna) and Alexander Tzonis (of TUDelft).
The cycle of dissent paved way for some constructive dialogues. A General Body Meeting was soon convened by the authorities to discuss students’ concerns. Some positive steps were taken to involve students in the building design and repair committees, and the need for having powerful student councils that can follow up on major decisions, was communicated. Although much is still left to be desired, this is surely a start to restoring the aspect of 'relationships' within efficient 'structures'.