“My buildings will be my legacy…they will speak for me long after I’m gone,” Julia Morgan, world famous architect, had said after a long and prolific career. Her sentiment would have been echoed by Indramohan Asthana, a much admired alumnus of IIT Kharagpur and a renowned architect. We are deeply saddened by his demise on the night of August 29, 2019.
Asthana graduated from the Department of Architecture and Regional Planning with 1st Class Honours in 1959 and started his professional career as an architect the same year. And what an outstanding innings it turned out to be! His firm gave Kolkata a few of its landmarks – the Auxilium Parish Church and the Kala Mandir Auditorium. In its repertory were also some of the city’s schools with their distinctive architecture – Our Lady Queen of the Missions school, the Hariyana Vidya Mandir School and the Salt Lake Shiksha Sadan School. His firm also constructed the Terry Waite Vocational Center at Ranaghat for Y Care Foundation UK, and the Government of UK.
Asthana’s field of operations stretched way beyond the borders of the country. He operated an architectural practice in Muscat, Sultanate of Oman, and designed buildings for the Ministry of Housing and Ministry of Education, the Corporate Building for Khaleej Times. He also operated from an office in Fort Lauderdale, USA and designed huge warehouses for Walmart, hospital in Arizona, residential complex in California and many other projects in foreign lands.
For his expertise and contribution to his field, he received special Invitation to meet Lord Mayor of Swansea, Wales in 1988, and to receive Scroll of Excellence from Lord Mayor on behalf of Overseas Development Agency, Government of UK. He was also a recipient of Certificate of Appreciation from the Indian Institute of Architects (IIA) in 1994, for his life-long contribution to architecture. An acknowledged leader of the domain, he was a jury member for ‘Architect of The Year Award’ in both 1996 and 1998. He was also recipient of Shelter Award by the Shelter Promotion Council of India in 1999. From 2005-09, he was Executive Council member, Indian Society of Lighting Engineers.
However, all this frenetic activity throughout the world could not keep Asthana separated from his alma mater, where he left his distinctive stamp over the eyars. He became the point of reference for many of the Institute’s architectural ventures as also its outreach efforts. He is credited with the articulate design of the IIT Kharagpur’s Central Library Building, the interiors of the Rajiv Gandhi School of Intellectual Property Law at IIT Kharagpur, and the IIT Kharagpur Extension Center at Salt Lake.
He was the driving force behind the formation of the Technology Alumni Association of IIT Kharagpur with the blessings of past professors like Prof. R. Mishra, Prof. Keshav Murthy, Prof. Pandya and others. He received the Scroll of Appreciation in 2008 for founding the first Alumni Association of IIT Kharagpur and was elected as Chairman Emeritus for his relentless activity to further the goals of TAA.
The movement Asthana initiated gained momentum and several chapters in various cities came up one by one in India and abroad, the crowning moment being the birth of Alumni Association in Silicone Valley, USA. His efforts culminated in the hosting of the PAN IIT meet in Kolkata in 2012, under the joint leadership of senior alumni such as Sandipan Chakraborty, Anirudha Roy and Pronob Guha. On numerous occasions during his career, Asthana was Visiting Professor at IIT Kharagpur’s Department of Architecture and Regional Planning. In recognition of his long and distinguished service to his alma mater, Asthana was awarded the Distinguished Service Award in 2016-17.
He was the happiest when one of the projects he held dear came to fruition recently – the Clock Tower on the IIT Kharagpur campus. From 2016, when the idea was floated by Vinod Gupta and gradually gained ground among the alumni, many of them associated with the IIT KGP Foundation of USA, Asthana drove the design and its construction. The Clock Tower, now standing tall at about 7 metres in height, with its four faces opening out to the four arterial roads that run through the campus, bears a direct imprint of an alumnus who loved his alma mater.
Indramohan Asthana will be sorely missed by the present and future generations of all those linked with the life of the Institute.