“Sabarmati Ashram is the right place for our activities to carry on the search for Truth and develop Fearlessness. On one side are the iron bolts of the foreigners and on the other, thunderbolts of Mother Nature.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Sabarmati Ashram or Gandhi Memorial Museum in Ahmedabad was designed by Charles Correa in 1963. The place where Mahatma Gandhi set up his Ashram, and where the historic Dandi march began houses Gandhi’s books, letters, and photographs. Charles Correa, 28 at that time had the task of extracting the philosophies and values of Gandhi in an already built work which he worked on with the ideals of simplicity and frugality.
DESIGN PHILOSOPHY: The Ashram gives a contemporary expression of the spirit of swadeshi. It combines Hindu Architectural and the cosmological idea of isotropy (which can be found in a variety of Hindu temples) with Modernist functional planning. With the words of Mahatma Gandhi“I don’t want my house to be walled on four sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want cultures of all the land to be blown about my houses as freely as possible but I refuse to be blown off my feet by any of them” Correa designed to create winding pathways progressing towards the centrality of the water courtyard with the arrangement of the rooms in such a way. The museum uses a simple post and beam structure with load-bearing columns supporting the concrete channels, also supporting the wooden roof. The whole structure gives a similar planning style to houses found in Indian villages adding a rural touch of Banni region into its architecture, where instead of one whole volume, the houses are divided for each its function surrounding to make a courtyard in such a way that inhabitants are to walk back and forth across the courtyard to use different spaces.
SPACES PLANNING: In the simplest Indian context, the structure is open and inviting, yet expandable, adjustable, and humane. There are five interior rooms containing collections of letters, office space, meeting space, books, photos, and paintings separately. All rooms are enclosed by brick walls and wooden louver screens and of 6m square module. Correa’s subtle variation of the enclosure allows the play of the module’s lighting, temperature, and visual permeability. Apart from the squared pool in between the five rooms, the site itself integrates Sabarmati River Bank into its garden. Such use of water bodies creates a flowing sensory approach to the whole.
CONSTRUCTION: The foundation is made of concrete and is raised about a foot above the ground. Brick columns support the wooden roof and direct rainwater with boards nailed underneath the joists and tiles placed atop. This archetypal and vernacular work resembles that of Louis Kahn, who started practicing in the region shortly after. Wooden doors, stone floors, and brick columns are the main palette of this structure.
VAASTU: The arrangement is done according to the principles of Vaastu. Square grid with courtyard and placements of rooms in the directions where it brings out the best of its positive energies are such examples.
- Spaces for books in North East as the light reaches in this direction at around 3 am- 6 am that is the time suited for meditation, yoga, and concentration and hence is said to bring out positive energy.
- Toilets and Open gallery in North West and West direction to incorporate wind and water flow with louvered windows.
- The main water body in the East direction as the Sabarmati River flows east to Southeast and to purify the water by pure sunlight.
- Office spaces in the South direction to provide excellent ventilation of south monsoon.
RAINWATER HARVESTING SYSTEM: Catchment area created atop every brick column with RCC channels to collect rainwater from sloping roofs. It is one of the most inexpensive methods known.
In a city with growing vertical high risers, Sabarmati Ashram is one of the main spots of Ahmedabad and of Indian culture that meanders a horizontal plane to walk on in a peaceful and meditative way. The peace found there seems exactly as said i.e. evidently swadeshi. With a human-scaled Gandhi statue sitting in the courtyard it certainly reminds one of the importance that he conveyed to this country. After its construction, Jawaharlal Nehru described the design saying “There is nothing pretentious here, [it] is a very simple and lovely thing” and that is exactly what Correa’s design has conveyed.