The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation has hired a private consultant to raise funds to restore the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Stadium.
by Ritu Sharma
At the centre of the busy Navrangpura, a dense residential and business district in Ahmedabad stands the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel (SVP) Stadium spread over 67,000 sq metres.
Designed by the famous architect Charles Correa, the SVP Stadium was built for the Cricket Club of Ahmedabad (CCA) and hosted the first international match in the country in 1981. Gujarat had already made history as it had hosted the first cricket match in India in 1721 played by the Mariners of East India Company at Cambay.
The then mayor of Ahmedabad Chinubhai Chimanlal had hired Correa for the project to come up on the land given by the erstwhile state of Bombay. While Correa designed the stadium, the leading structural engineer of the time Mahendra Raj was the consulting engineer for the project.
Now, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) has appointed a private consultant to raise funds to restore the iconic SPV Stadium, which had hosted the then chief minister Narendra Modi’s inauguration, concerts by A R Rahman and Bryan Adams as well as events held by spiritual gurus.
Many of firsts
The construction of the stadium had started in 1959, a year before Gujarat separated from the Bombay Presidency as an independent state. Records show due to financial constraints, the stadium was only partially completed in 1966 and it took nearly a decade to complete, hosting its first-ever One Day International (ODI) match in 1981.
In 1963, the stadium’s 326 feet-folded plate cantilever roof span was the longest in the world.
It was also the first building in India to have used the complex folded plate structural system with a 20-metre-wide reinforced cement concrete (RCC) folded plate cantilever roof above the pavilion. A geometric concrete frame forms the exterior of the stadium, with light, airy space below the seats for visitors to meander through its slender columns and a dynamic scale.
The SVP stadium remained at the centre of sporting activity in Ahmedabad until 1983 when the stadium at Motera then in Ahmedabad’s outskirts, also named after Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, was built. The redeveloped Motera stadium was renamed after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and is the largest cricket stadium in the world.
Now, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) has appointed a private consultant to raise funds to restore the iconic SPV Stadium, which had hosted the then chief minister Narendra Modi’s inauguration, concerts by A R Rahman and Bryan Adams as well as events held by spiritual gurus.\
Ahmedabad-based consultant Thakkar Associates was appointed last month to raise funds estimated to be over Rs 50 crore only for the repairs and restoration of the stadium.
“The consultant has been given around three months to raise the funds for restoration through CSR. A decision will be taken based on the report they submit in the meanwhile AMC is exploring the heritage value of the stadium,” M Thennarasan, Commissioner, AMC, told The Indian Express.
Restoring a historic building
At present, only the ground is being used for matches even though the seating area of 40,000 has been closed for over a year and a half. The last sports event held in the stadium was the 11th edition of Khel Mahakhumb inaugurated by PM Modi in March 2022 for which the seating area was used after several repair works were undertaken on a mission mode by the AMC.
The restoration of the 1960s structure, one of the famous works by Correa, will be based on the report submitted by the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras to the AMC, which owns the stadium.
However, the stadium’s fate for restoration is said to also depend on the master plan for the 2036 Olympics to be held in Gujarat, majorly in Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar.
Thakkar Associates told The Indian Express the modalities, including the time limit, are being worked out. “We are hopeful and have indications that the report (restoration) has generated a lot of interest from funding agencies,” Rahul Thakkar, the proprietor of Thakkar Associates, said.
The World Monuments Fund (WMF) launched a project to create a Comprehensive Conservation Management Plan (CCMP) for the stadium along with AMC and the National Centre for Safety of Heritage Structures, Department of Civil Engineering at IIT Madras. The stadium was also included in the 2020 World Monuments Watch.
In 2022, the WMF submitted the CCMP to the civic body.
The plan was aimed at successful conservation so that it would serve as a “vibrant, valued, self-sustaining community hub; offer an exemplary model for good conservation practices and creative adaptive reuse ideas for other modernist concrete structures in Ahmedabad; and create a wider understanding and appreciation of the cultural, historical, architectural, engineering, and social significance of India’s modernist architecture”, according to the WMF website.
A ‘complex challenge’
The proposal submitted by IIT Madras on September 20, 2023, and seen by The Indian Express, suggests “adequate electrochemical and mechanical conservation strategies must be employed to extend the service life of the stadium for 30+ years without major repairs which are anticipated international events in the stadium in coming decades”.
With over “30 years of repair-free service life” in mind, IIT Madras has recommended a combination of four conservation strategies for the SVP Stadium — cathodic prevention, cathodic protection, textile-reinforced concrete, and recycling and reconstruction.
“Field and lab test results indicate that the root cause of corrosion is attributed to the low-pH due to the carbonation of steel concrete interface, especially where the cover depth to rebars is lower significantly less than the prescribed cover depth,” the IITM report stated as the cause of deterioration.
At the time the structures were planned on the site, everything was largely done by hand.
“It is a complex challenge of preserving not only an iconic twentieth-century modern structure but an emblematic public space for the people of Ahmedabad. It identifies the fact that in addition to having great architectural significance, the intangible aspects are as significant. These intangible aspects have been identified in the form of users and their associated memories of the place- witnessing important matches, training for various sports, starting of careers- thus re-engaging them with the stadium,” said Chirashree Thakkar of Thakkar Associates.
She said its dynamism and innovation both in terms of design and construction remain a source of inspiration for the architectural and engineering communities, and the citizens even today. “However, over the years, the stadium has suffered significant physical degradation, especially in terms of its materials. The stresses are visible in multiple forms like active corrosion of steel, spalling of concrete, and leaching of salts indicating the possibility of steel corrosion,” she added.
The IITM report has also listed “higher corrosion susceptibility of cold twisted bars used in 1980s construction than the mild steels used in 1960s construction might have led to the earlier corrosion of 1980s construction”. “More importantly, the previous repairs were done without addressing the root cause of corrosion. Hence they failed to arrest the ongoing corrosion, and moreover led to a halo effect and accelerated the corrosion in adjacent regions of patch repairs”.