Charles Correa, Goa’s son of the soil and much loved icon passed away on 16th June. He was one of India’s greatest architects and urban planners designing various landmarks all over India and abroad. He was awarded the Padma Shri,the Padma Vibushan and the Royal Gold Medal for architecture by the Royal Institute of British Architects.
I have had an opportunity to visit the government office in his uniquely designed Visveswaraya Towers in my Bangalore hometown and the Mahatma Gandhi memorial at Sabarmati Ashram.I have seen how his affordable housing has changed the face of the Dharavi slum. I have attended the theatre and art exhibitions in Goa’s Kala Academy,which is ample evidence of his love of open spaces full of light and air.It was here that my father had an opportunity to meet him on the eve of the Golden Jubilee of the Liberation of Goa,,when Charles Correa was bestowed with Goa’s highest civilian honour, the Gomant Vibhushan.
I have benefited indirectly from his architectural genius.His protegee, Edgar D’melho probably acquired his love of open spaces while working with him on his Bima Nagar Township in Bangalore.Edgar has been the architect of not only my Bangalore house so filled with light and air(we never need fans and hardly had to use lights till really dark)and the accoustics were wonderful. It also helped Edgar convert my heritage “cow shed “property in Goa into the beautiful open Mitaroy Goa Hotel with its high ceiling,allowing lots of light and air.Charles swore to never design a glass building and so did Edgar.
When my mother visited Toronto she made sure to visit one of Charles’ latest projects, the Ismaili Centre and also was able to appreciate his McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT,Boston when she visited there.I can claim to be his neighbour in Goa,since he built his office in Fontainhas, quite close to my Mitaroy and next to the 400 year old St Sebastian Chapel.We have seen him there many times discussing projects with his staff.I have often admired his work at the Madgaon station when I land there to begin my Goan sojourn.
My parents remember fondly their close interaction with Charles and his lovely wife over cake and coffee after the Christmas. midnight mass in the St Sebastian Chapel 2 years back,discussing the beauty and uniqueness of the UNESCO heritage zone of Fontainhas of which we both are a part.Exactly a week back, while driving past Charles’ waterfront cottages at Verem,my father was thinking of offering my Mitaory Goa place to Charles in exchange for a cottage there watching the Mandovi meander amidst the hustle and bustle.But unfortunately this was not to be.