BHADLI VILLAGE - KUTCH a The earthquake-January 26th 2001 It was a Friday. As it was our Republic Day it was a holiday. I had moved into a high-rise apartment in Mumbai just a few months earlier. I was sitting at the dining table when I felt the floor below me shake. I first thought I was having a giddy spell and stood up, but then I notice the ceiling lights were swaying from side to side. It was an earthquake. It was several hours later that we found out that the epicenter of this earthquake was in Kutch in Gujarat. It measured 7.9 on the Richter scale and took place at 8.50 am with its epicenter near Bhuj in Kutch district. I had been to Bhuj many years earlier. The erstwhile Maharaja was a client of mine and I had gone with my family to his `Raj Tilaka or Coronation. It had been a time of celebration.
My next trip to Bhuj was going to be very different. Implementation of the plan for the rehabilitation of the village began in August 2001 and a year later the residents of Bhadli were housed in their new homes. At the start of the project the decision taken by Brinda Somaya was that as architects they would be facilitators and that there would be no imposition of ideas on the people. Hence, the help offered to the people of Bhadli was financial, material and professional expertise; but the shape the village took was decided by the residents themselves. Three main factors that guided the reconstruction process were the incorporation of seismic and climate related safety factors,
The new houses were built on the original parcels of land so there was no relocation of villagers and finally the realization that Bhadli had to return to normalcy as quickly as possible. During the construction phase, the sense of involvement with the villagers strengthened resulting in the initial goal of reconstruction taking on a new meaning and went beyond just building homes. A total of a 124 homes were built. The concept of a village square was developed in the form of a multi-purpose hall, a women's centre that boosted the craft output of the village and a balwadi. The Rehabilitation of Bhadli Village was nominated for the Aga Khan Award in 2007. The Bhadli Village School has been selected for the Phaidon Atlas of 21st Century World Architecture by the Phaidon Press Limited for their short-list.