Smritivan earthquake memorial
Vinay Panjwani

Smritivan earthquake memorial

Vastushilpa Sangath LLP (vastushilpa consultants) as Architects

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.

photo_credit Vinay Panjwani
Vinay Panjwani
photo_credit Vinay Panjwani
Vinay Panjwani

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.

photo_credit Vinay Panjwani
Vinay Panjwani
photo_credit Vinay Panjwani
Vinay Panjwani

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.

photo_credit Vinay Panjwani
Vinay Panjwani
photo_credit Vinay Panjwani
Vinay Panjwani

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 thee 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.

photo_credit Vinay Panjwani
Vinay Panjwani
photo_credit Vinay Panjwani
Vinay Panjwani

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 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, reminding one of the larger cosmic event one temporarily inhabits.

photo_credit Vinay Panjwani
Vinay Panjwani
photo_credit Vinay Panjwani
Vinay Panjwani

Team:
Architects: Vastushilpa Sangath LLP formerly known as vastushilpa consultants
Other participants: V.R Shah engineers, Jhaveri Associates, Studione23E72N
Photography: Vinay Panjwani

photo_credit Vinay Panjwani
Vinay Panjwani
photo_credit Vinay Panjwani
Vinay Panjwani

Material Used:
1. Facade cladding: Local stone (Khavda)
2. Flooring: Local stone (Khavda)
3. Retaining walls: Gabion walls

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