Mangalore: ‘Close Encounters of the Architectural Kind’ Starring India’s Architect Legend Charles Correa

By Alfie D’Souza, Team Mangalorean

“The greatest satisfaction, I think, is when a building opens and the public possesses it and you cut the umbilical cord and you see it taking on its own life. There?s no greater satisfaction”. ? Moshe Safdie

?A doctor can bury his mistakes, but an architect can only advise his clients to plant vines.?? Frank Lloyd Wright

“What should our designs try to achieve? We must take a critical look at the brief, make it more comprehensive. We must look beyond the narrow object and ask ourselves: What will be the ecological consequences? “? Sir Ove Arup

“When an architect is asked what his best building is, he usually answers, ?The next one.? ? Emilio Ambasz

“Early in life I had to choose between honest arrogance and hypocritical humility. I chose the former and have seen no reason to change” ? Frank Lloyd Wright

“Architects can?t force people to connect, it can only plan the crossing points, remove barriers, and make the meeting places useful and attractive”. ? Denise Scott Brown

Mangalore: For the first time I made to the Big Cinemas located inside Bharat Mall, but the funny part is not to watch a movie, but to listen and interact with Charles Correa, an internationally recognised architect/urban designer and India’s greatest architect. “A Evening with Architect Charles Correa” was hosted by Architects Guild at the movie theatre. It was simply awesome to watch the video presentation of some of Correa’s architectural work on the Big Screen. Great show put up the energetic members of Architects Guild- Kudos and well done !

And when Charles Correa started to mention and praised one of the beautiful city of Chicago suburb, USA named Oak Park, I was very much overwhelmed, for the reason I had lived in Oak Oak at my sister-in-laws condominium for nearly two years, during my 23 years in US. It would be possible (though sinful) to remove all the houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright from Oak Park and still leave behind enough architectural eye candy to populate two or three suburbs. With a century-long attention to good design, the town is layered with landmarks old and new. If Oak Park?s buildings are a feast for the eyes, its commercial districts offer a true banquet, with little bakeries, lively ethnic joints, and fine dining establishments all along Lake Street in the middle of town and at a scattering of other retail hubs. Diversity of races and incomes is also a hallmark of this mini-urban suburb, giving it a comfortably 21st-century mix. Unbelievably great town, Oak Park !

The evening proceedings began with Vinod Aranha of Architects Guild welcoming Charles Correa and his wife, where he said, “This day our Architects Guild will never forget. These are moments we will cherish, remember and talk about for days on end of your (Correa) visit to Mangalore. They say behind every successful man there is a woman and can anything be better when the lady is your own wife ! We warmly welcome Mrs Correa and trust you are enjoying Mangalore” ( Mrs Correa is originally from Mangalore) Well said by Aranha !

Then came the moment that everyone was waiting for- a talk and audio,video presentation by Charles Correa. Charles Correa who has played a pivotal role in the creation of an architecture for post-Independence India, and also abroad showcased/explained some of his signature projects from across India & world. With a career spanning well over four decades, Indian architect Charles Correa?s ingenious architectural builds and urban planning designs have put him at the front of post-colonial architecture in Southeast Asia, in addition to creating various international buildings that follow his exquisite use of line and geometric balance. Honouring the needs of the many within the concepts of most of his works, Correa continues to be a pioneer of modern architecture.

Addressing the gathering which was predominantly mixed of students and general public, Correa said, ” Architecture is not a moveable feast, like music. You can give the same concert in three different places, but you can’t just repeat buildings and clone them across the world. Is it easy to build a 300 room hotel without any architectural beauty. We should not just build structures/buildings but also think of the consequences”.

Correa further said, “When you build a building we should make sure there are lots of openings so that fresh air can circulate. By doing this, you don’t need fans or air-condition , because the building can sustain when there is power outage. Also the buildings should be on solid principles. Before you build a building you should learn more about the city and surroundings, and then only start the construction”.

Charles Correa further said that the citizens of Mangalore should concentrate and worry about their city first. “Mangalore First” should be the motto. Architects have to work in a way that suit the buildings around. Students of architecture should be always ready to equip themselves to present the city, the way it was.

A film on one of Charles Correa’s magnificent masterpiece namely the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown in Lisbon -Portugal was screened, which at the end of the film the audience gave a rousing applaud for a great work done by Correa. Following the film, there was a interaction with the audience, where students and public in the audience posed some interesting queries, which were answered in brief and to the point by Correa. The unique event ended with the vote of thanks proposed by Venkatesh Pai- the president of Architects guild. The programme was professionally compered by Manjari Saldanha. Later at night at a banquet hosted at Hotel Taj Gateway,  Charles Correa interacted with the guests and shared his ideas and more details about his profession.

I would like to compliment the young and energetic members of The Architects Guild, Mangalore- a organization which has completed 12 glorious years of service to the building design and technical profession of coastal Karnataka. The Guild serves as a platform to educate, create awareness and foster growth in not only the field of design and structures but in relationships as well. The Guild has brought to Mangalore valuable presentations by renowned architects from all over India and even from abroad. Their past events include technical seminars, workshops, presentation by eminent architects, and building material expositions. Keep up the good work that you are all entrusted with !

In conclusion, India is a country loaded with fascinating architectural finds, many of which are world-famous, all of which play a role in telling the story of this incredible republic. The architecture within India is testament to its consequential history, and influenced by the politics, religions, languages, customs and practices of the country. Over the years, it has been subject to several different colonies and military controls. Now an independent republic, it has become important to maintain their individual cultural traditions within post-colonial Southeast Asia. With fast expanding cities creating areas of poor housing and low incomes, architects such as Charles Correa and his innovative urban planning designs are of increasing importance and value. Long live Charles Correa and his innovative projects.

I end this column with a thought-provoking quote by Charles Correa- “Just as there is writing and then there is literature, there is construction and then there is architecture. Great architecture can change society. All great architecture is great sculpture. But it is sculpture used by human beings. So, it has to have openings for light and air, doors… these openings should not spoil the sculpture, they should complete it. That is what Wright did with his houses. They are stunning.”

Charles Correa – a profile:

Charles Mark Correa was born on September 1, 1930, in Secunderabad. Correa began his higher studies at St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai at the University of Bombay (now Mumbai), and he went on to study at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor (1949?53) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts (1953?55). In 1958 he established his own Bombay-based professional practice.

Charles Correa is a major figure in contemporary architecture around the world. With his extraordinary and inspiring designs, he has played a pivotal role in the creation of an architecture for post-Independence India. All of his work – from the carefully detailed memorial Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Museum at the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad to Kanchanjunga Apartment tower in Mumbai, the Jawahar Kala Kendra in Jaipur, the planning of Navi Mumbai, MIT’S Brain and Cognitive Sciences Centre in Boston, and most recently, the Champalimad Centre for the Unknown in Lisbon, places special emphasis on prevailing resources, energy and climate as major determinants in the ordering of space.

His first important project was “Mahatma Gandhi Sangrahalaya” (Mahatma Gandhi Memorial) at Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad (1958-1963), then in 1967 he designed the Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly in Bhopal. He also designed the distinctive buildings of National Crafts Museum, New Delhi (1975?1990), Bharat Bhavan, Bhopal (1982), Jawahar Kala Kendra (Jawahar Arts Centre), in Jaipur, Rajasthan (1986-1992), British Council, Delhi, (1987?92) the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, Boston (2000-2005), and the Champalimaud Centre for The Unknown in Lisbon, Portugal (2007-2010).[5] From 1970-75, he was Chief Architect for New Bombay (Navi Mumbai), an urban growth center of 2 million people, across the harbor from the existing city of Mumbai, here along with Shirish Patel and Pravina Mehta he was involved in extensive urban planning of the new city.In 1985, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi appointed him Chairman of the National Commission on Urbanization.

In 1984, he founded the Urban Design Research Institute in Bombay, dedicated to the protection of the built environment and improvement of urban communities. Over the last four decades, Correa has done pioneering work in urban issues and low-cost shelter in the Third World.

2005-2008 he was Chairman of the Delhi Urban Arts Commission. In 2008 he resigned his commission as the head of Delhi Urban Arts Commission. On 18 December 2011, the eve of the Golden Jubilee of Goa’s Liberation, Charles Correa was bestowed with Goa’s highest civilian honour, the Gomant Vibhushan.In 2013, the Royal Institute of British Architects held an retrospective exhibition, “Charles Correa – India’s Greatest Architect”, about the influences his work on modern urban Indian architecture.

Charles Correa is currently working on several projects worthy of note. Of particular significance is the new Ismaili Centre in Toronto, Canada that is to be located in the midst of formal gardens and surrounded by a large park designed by landscape architect Vladimir Djurovic. It will share the site with the Fumihiko Maki designed Aga Khan Museum.

Correa is recipient of various awards namely – RIBA Royal Gold Medal – 1984; Padma Vibhushan (2006) and Padma Shri (1972); Praemium Imperiale (1994); 7th Aga Khan Award for Architecture for Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly (1998); Austrian Decoration for Science and Art (2005). His acclaimed design for McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT was dedicated recently.

In addition to his many architectural feats, Correa has written essays and theoretical works focusing on the differing aspects of architecture and urban planning. He regards the notion of the city and its importance in breeding intellectual creativity as integral to creating areas in which ideas are made and opportunity is rife, as discussed in his essay The New Landscape (1989). Shaping the future of modern architecture through his buildings and writings, Correa is commendable for highlighting the need to design quality builds in areas of economic despair.

Currently based in Mumbai, Correa is not simply an architect but a keen activist also. He has made invaluable contributions to contemporary architecture throughout his 82 years and is predominantly known for his city and urban planning, which he utilises in order to better the lives of the poorer inhabitants of India. Leading architect for urban growth centres and founder of the Urban Design Research Institute in Bombay, his work uses a combination of traditional and modern features in order to create cutting-edge designs. Although forever stressing the importance of social issues and the need for quality low-income housing, his builds range from institutional to public, urban planning to memorials and housing projects.

Author: Alfie DSouza- Illinois