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  • Smritivan Earthquake Memorial Museum | Vastushilpa Sangath

    At 8:46 am on January 26, 2001, an earthquake occurred in the Kutch region of Gujarat. Measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale, it irrevocably shook innumerable lives and killed 13,805 people. The destruction of habitat, property, and infrastructure ran in billions. The trauma it caused cannot truly be mapped. Smritivan Earthquake Memorial Museum is then neither a monolithic memorial nor a garden, but a living memory, and homage to the hope and resilience of Kutch.

    “The grounds of memorium can be provoking and emotional, something to be dealt with care. The mindful planning is an ode to the city of Bhuj, its people, culture, climate, and terrain.” – Nishal Sevak(Co-Editor)

    Smritivan Earthquake Memorial Museum | Vastushilpa Sangath

    Visit: Vastushilpa Sangath

    Kutch is familiar with the vagaries of nature. It traces its roots at least to the Harappan civilization, thus at least 4500 years. In this period, it has been subject to numerous natural disasters, including cyclones and droughts. Consequently, it has evolved a culture of resilience. Water remains the scarcest natural resource, and so, the region’s ecology, economy, culture, social structure, festivals, and struggle for survival all revolve around water.

    The precise brief by the then Chief Minister of Gujarat, now Prime Minister, Narender Modi was to “plant a tree for each victim.” A simple yet profound brief. For a tree symbolizes rebirth, renewal, and hope, the beginning of the journey of life once again. How better to commemorate the loss of human life than through such a symbolic act of regeneration? The planting of trees also suggested the making of a forest. The forest also symbolizes a collective that is made of many that are diverse.

    For us, this suggested two intertwined paths. One for the families of the victims who would come as pilgrims to remember their loved ones and the other, a path of sustenance of the trees, of resilience in an arid place such as Kutch. We earnestly believe it is only necessary to initially assist the earth, till the new initiative takes root, and then nature takes over.

    The assistance involved the identification of local species, the paths through which water flows, as well as the soil and nutrients that the water collects on its journey, and most importantly the design of the tanks and places where the water could seep into the earth slowly. The design then evolved by strategically planning small-scale reservoirs on the 452 acres. The first phase of about 199 acres has now been executed.

    As nature heals and cultivation grows, the experience of the memorial, of Smritivan changes. Slowly the diverse vegetation will grow into an ecosystem that will merge with the built forms, thus eventually engulfing them into one cohesive maze of green and blue. Smritivan Earthquake Memorial Museum is then neither a monolithic memorial nor a garden, but a living memory, and homage to the hope and resilience of Kutch. Lastly, Smritivan is meant to be an engaging public space. Thus, along with the reservoirs, a sun point was also created. Located at the top of the hill, it offers vistas of the town that invite reflection. It charts the movement of the sun and moon in the form of a lune-solar calendar, with different cuts in the circular ring marking days of cultural significance. Thus, relating one to the cosmic, reminds one of the larger cosmic events one temporarily inhabits.

    Fact File

    Designed by: Vastushilpa Sangath

    Project Name: Smritivan Earthquake Memorial

    Project Size: 20,5590 Sq.ft

    Location: Bhuj, Gujarat

    Year Built: 2023

    Principal Architect: Rajeev Kathpalia

    Senior Architect: Rajesh Suthar

    Project Lead: Piyas Choudhari

    Photograph Courtesy: Vinay Panjwani

    Structural Design: V.R Shah Engineers

    MEPF: Jhaveri Associates

    Products & Materials: Jindal Steel, Maccaferri, Tata Steel

    Source: ArchDaily

    Firm’s Website Link: Vastushilpa Sangath

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