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  • Writer's pictureKishan Thakkar

Sabarmati Ashram: A Timeless Architectural Gem Designed by Charles Correa

Updated: Apr 16, 2023

Sabarmati Ashram, located on the serene banks of the Sabarmati River in Ahmedabad, India, is not just a historical landmark, but also a masterpiece of architecture. Designed by renowned architect Charles Correa, this iconic structure embodies the spirit of simplicity, harmony, and sustainability.


As an architect, I had the privilege of visiting Sabarmati Ashram recently, and I was captivated by its design philosophy and the profound impact it has on the overall experience of the space.


Design Philosophy of Sabarmati Ashram


Sabarmati Ashram is a prime example of Correa's philosophy of contextual architecture, where he believed in designing buildings that are deeply rooted in the local culture, climate, and traditions. The ashram's design reflects the principles of sustainability, functionality, and social responsibility.


Simplicity


The design of Sabarmati Ashram is characterized by its simplicity. The buildings are modest and unpretentious, reflecting the humble lifestyle of Mahatma Gandhi, who lived here for over a decade. The use of locally available materials, such as brick and wood, adds to the simplicity of the architecture, creating a sense of harmony with the natural surroundings.


Harmony with Nature


The ashram is designed to blend seamlessly with the natural environment. The courtyards, gardens, and open spaces are carefully integrated with the buildings, creating a harmonious relationship with nature. The use of natural ventilation, daylighting, and rainwater harvesting techniques further exemplify Correa's sustainable approach to design.


Functionality


The ashram's design is highly functional, serving as a place for communal living, working, and contemplation. The buildings are organized around courtyards, providing ample natural light, ventilation, and privacy to the residents. The spatial layout encourages community engagement and fosters a sense of belonging among its inhabitants, which was a core value of Gandhi's philosophy.


Social Responsibility


The design of Sabarmati Ashram reflects Correa's deep commitment to social responsibility. The ashram was envisioned as a place for communal living and self-sustenance, where people could come together to learn, work, and engage in constructive activities. The design promotes inclusivity, equality, and social interaction, creating a sense of community among its inhabitants.


The Experience of Sabarmati Ashram:


Visiting Sabarmati Ashram was a truly immersive experience. Walking through the serene pathways, shaded by trees and lined with simple brick buildings, I was struck by the sense of calm and serenity that enveloped the space. The architecture seamlessly merged with the natural surroundings, creating a harmonious ambience that resonated with Gandhi's philosophy of simplicity and sustainability.


The courtyards, with their shaded seating areas and communal spaces, fostered a sense of community and encouraged interactions among the visitors. The ashram's museum, housed in one of the buildings, displayed exhibits that showcased Gandhi's life, teachings, and the history of the Indian independence movement. The museum's design was simple yet impactful, creating a powerful narrative that left a lasting impression.


One of the highlights of my visit was the experience of standing on the riverfront, where Gandhi used to take his daily walks and engage in contemplation. The view of the river, with its gentle flow and the distant hum of the city, was mesmerizing. The design of the ashram, with its openness to the river, created a strong connection with nature, reinforcing Gandhi's belief in the interdependence of man and his environment.


As architects and architecture students, Sabarmati Ashram serves as a powerful example of how design can go beyond aesthetics and functionality to encompass deeper philosophical and social values. It reminds us of the importance of designing spaces that are not just visually pleasing, but also meaningful, sustainable, and inclusive.


In the words of Charles Correa himself, "The role of the architect is not just to provide shelter, but to create an environment that inspires, nourishes, and enriches the lives of the people who inhabit it."

Sabarmati Ashram stands as a shining example of this philosophy, where the architecture transcends mere physical structures to create an experience that is spiritual, emotional, and transformative.


Visiting Sabarmati Ashram was a humbling experience that left a lasting impact on me as an architecture student. It reinforced my belief in the power of design to create spaces that are not just functional, but also socially responsible and sustainable.


As we strive to create architecture that goes beyond aesthetics and serves the needs of the community, Sabarmati Ashram serves as a beacon of design excellence and a reminder of the profound impact that architecture can have on our lives and the society at large.


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