The CEPT University Library, called the Lilavati Lalbhai Library, opened in 2017. It was the first structure on the CEPT campus that architect BV Doshi had not designed, and architect Rahul Mehrotra—an alumnus of CEPT, and Lead Architect of RMA Architects—says that he found this intimidating and challenging.
However, the library today integrates seamlessly into the overall plan due to the eclectic nature of the architectural language of CEPT, as well as the detailed analysis conducted on the proposed site.
The CEPT University Library was designed to promote the connection and integration of faculty and students from the various academic departments. Rahul Mehrotra, envisioned the building as a source of inspiration and innovation for the students, beyond a mere repository of books.
The library was intended as an expression of the University’s shift towards a more choice-based pedagogy, and an exhibition of the reinterpretation of climate-responsive architecture.
Situated at a critical central point in the campus plan, the library naturally serves as a pivotal linking space, which is further emphasized by the convenient entrances at all the cardinal points that allow access into the building.
Design and Materiality
Three distinct spaces layered within each other, like tree rings, fulfill the basic concept of the building. The first area is the exterior space designed to combat the harsh climate of Ahmedabad by acting as the ‘skin’ of the building.
The second layer is made of wide spaces meant to flood the structure with light. This second layer is created as an intermediate space between the skin and the core. The final layer, or the library core, contains the stack space and the more private reading areas and is made of steel and glass along with concrete.
The interlocking of these different layers is responsible for creating a variety of different, interesting spaces within the library, 12 types in total. Mehrotra wished for these spaces to act as founts for learning and mental stimulation. The variety of spaces allow for greater convenience and flexibility of library usage.
Spaces Within the Library
The CEPT University Library follows and reinvents the existing architectural language. The site of the library is based on the original masterplan of the University, and the building is aligned with the pre-existing buildings.
Mehrotra restricted the height of the structure to match the existing context and then built it downwards such that half of the building is buried, which provides the added advantage of temperature control. The library core extends down to these basement levels, with quieter spaces for reading and archiving.
Seminar rooms and administrative areas are also present within this core. The upper levels contain the exhibition and collaboration spaces, and some open directly to the campus, promoting more informal, inviting spaces within and around the library.
Lower height spaces meant to simulate intimacy and privacy make up the internal library core, in contrast to the other layers. Mehrotra wanted to create the sense that students would feel the same comfort within the building that they would within their homes or rooms.
Thus, in the basement levels, he created spaces through a variety of spaces for group work and ‘carrels’, which are specially designed nooks for individual study. The structural elements are integrated within the stack spaces to create a sense of ambiguity about the depth of the building.
The lowest level is used as archival spaces and storage. The core also functions as a repository for multi-format media, to maintain the University standards of knowledge.
More flexible spaces that also connect the building with the natural context are present in the upper levels. The skin of the building plays an important role in this. While the internal layers are made of structural steel, concrete, and glass, the skin has a material palette of concrete and wooden louvers.
Louvers are an effective method of passive temperature control and have been used as a façade element before, such as in the Mill Owners’ Association building. However, rather than a rigid, fixed structure of vertical fins, Mehrotra reimagined the concept.
The wooden louvers in the CEPT University Library are an integral part of both the architectural vocabulary as well as the functioning of the building. The louvers can be manually angled at different orientations to control the flow of light and air into the building based on student requirements.
This constant shift in light and shadow adds a new element of interest, while also serving as a demonstration of passive architectural climatic control techniques. The whole building, therefore, behaves as a learning tool for the students on the topics of lighting, ventilation, and temperature control strategies, while also easing their experience within the building.
The louvers are present on the upper levels of the building, where various types of reading spaces are present for multiple methods of learning ranging from collaborative to individual.
Since its opening, the CEPT library has been fully integrated both into the architectural language of the campus and also into the student culture, acting as a focal point for interaction and discussion, as well as for self-study and reflection.