As architects, we attempt to create designs that reflect the essence of the intended program or the context that the design is set into or just attempt at creating something that totally stands out just because we wish for it. Perhaps the most difficult job as architects is imagining the experience the end user would derive once the building is completed and is in function.

The Indian Institute of Forest Management designed by Architect Anant Raje sits atop a plateau in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. Completed in 1988 it occupies an area of 17,500 sq mtrs.

The first time I visited IIFM was roughly 2 years back on a study tour in my first year. It was just a couple of months into Architecture and so I was surviving on the knowledge fed by the professors to me, agreeing with what they said and not having an opinion of my own. I very well remember on the way to IIFM my professor briefing us about the place we were visiting. Even the professor hadn’t personally been here so it was his first visit too. Talking about the architect winning an award for this design we were thrilled to know what’s coming at us.

When you first see the structure, it reminds you of the post-apocalyptic ruins scenario you’ve been seeing all these years in movies. Large voids of arches in an imposing brutal structure, the sight itself feels weighing down on you. One could clearly see the structure screaming LIK’s philosophy as Raje had once been his disciple.

Done with our guided tour in the premises of IIFM all of us gathered in an open space near the water body. Seeing no official of the Institute present our senior professor decided to share his personal opinion. I very well remember those words.

काय ही काय डिसाईन आहे काय! (What sort of a design is this!) Does this even look like an institute for ‘FOREST MANAGEMENT’ ?”

Blinded by the preaching of professor’s personal experience of the structure, I too joined the bandwagon of cursing the building.

One can’t deny the fact that the entire design feels like a perfect blend of Indian modernism dashed with plenty of brutalism. The entire structure is clad with a sort of gray and brown stones. The wearing colour of the stone due to passing years has grown into the character of the overall visual of the structure.

Exploring the entire area clicking pictures and looking around, you are often met with these steps jetting out into the pathways where you can’t help but wonder why would you have an interruption in the prominent walkways.

Somehow, I had been finding faults just because of the kicker set in my mind by the professor. However, the building was engrossing my mind growing on me like wine does with every sip. It felt good, just that I wasn’t realizing it.

It took me another trip to realize how fascinating this structure is. This time I went to IIFM with my parents and just experienced the structure.

When you really think about it, all those interrupting elements in prominent walkways, they aren’t really a product of careless design but are an intended smart thought that leads to social and academic interactions. You don’t feel like there are any isolated structures, the entirety of the institute seems like a homogenous entity.

IIFM, Bhopal is an experience to be felt and not a structure to be visited. An experience that one is free to have and interpret it in his/her own way. To my end, I believe the architect delivered what he must have imagined. The structure sure could be more welcoming and pleasing at the first glance which it fails to be but the people love it, the students love it and that’s what really matters. At the end of the day, it’s the people and the user that will tell an architect if he has succeeded in delivering his imagination.

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