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13 Sep, 2021
Charles Mark Correa, born on 1st September 1930, was an Indian architect and urban planner. He was credited with the creation of modern architecture in post-Independent India, which was a crucial time for the progress of India. He was celebrated for his sensitivity to the needs of the poor that were living in urban areas. He was an ace architect who used traditional methods and materials to make buildings that were far away from the notion of traditional or ordinary.
Charles Correa designed around 100 buildings in India, leave alone the various remarkable buildings he gave various other countries. His works ranged from low-income housing to luxury condos. He rejected the monotonous glass and steel approach of some postmodernist buildings and focused on designs that were deeply rooted in local cultures. Under his creative designs he provided modern structural solutions.
His style was focused on reintroducing outdoor spaces and terraces.
His works are the manifestation of the idea of Indian nationhood, while not leaving behind modernity and progress. His vision sits at the focus defining the contemporary Indian sensibility and it articulates a new Indian identity with a language that has a global appeal
He is known to be someone who has that rare capacity to give physical form to culture and society. His works can, therefore, indubitably be called aesthetically, sociologically, and culturally critical.
For his contribution and excellence in the field of architecture, he even received a lot of prestigious awards from the Indian government, state governments and even foreign governments. Some of the most notable ones would be - Padma Shri (1972), Austrian Decoration for Science and Art (2005) and Padma Vibhushan (2006).
Notable Works -
Charles Correa, in his lifetime, has designed a lot of buildings. Some of his most outstanding works include - IUCAA in Pune, the Jawahar Kala Kendra in Jaipur, Bharat Bhavan in Bhopal and Vidhan Bhavan in Bhopal.
Since all of these buildings are a design marvel in themselves, we would like to delve deep and understand which design elements make these buildings modern architects look up to for inspiration.
Gandhi Smarak Sangrahalaya, Ahmedabad -
This commission was Correa’s first important work in private practice. The project started in 1958 and came to a close in 1963.
The aim was to reflect the simplicity of Gandhi’s life in a living institution. Correa’s subtle changes in the enclosure allow for variety in the module’s lighting, temperature, and visual permeability.
The museum uses a simple yet detailed structure with posts and beams. Load-bearing brick columns support concrete channels. These concrete channels, in turn, support the wooden roof. The foundation is made of concrete which is a foot above from the ground.
Gandhi Smarak Sangrahalaya project provided an example of how to combine the Hindu Architectural and cosmological idea of isotropy with Modernist functional planning. The concept of isotropy refers to an infinitely scalable structure found in the repetition and manipulation of Hindu temples’ decorative elements.
Correa placed five distinctly programmed interior spaces within the asymmetrical grid plan. The plan of the museum is also inspired from the village houses of India’s Banni region. Instead of a single building, the houses consist of five huts with different functions surrounding a courtyard. The inhabitants used to walk across the outside space to use the different rooms.
The site on the Sabarmati River bank is also a part of the larger ashram complex which is integrated into gardens. Five interior rooms contain the collection of the museum. The rooms are constructed by brick walls and wooden louvered screens. All the five rooms are a part of the 6m square module. A square, uncovered shallow pool is located between the five rooms.
The museum uses a simple but delicately detailed post and beam structure. Load bearing brick columns support concrete channels, which both support the wooden roof and direct rainwater. Boards are nailed underneath the joints and tiles are placed atop the joints. The foundation is concrete and is raised about a foot from the ground.
Jawahar Kala Kendra, Jaipur -
Lies in the heart of the fabled city of Jaipur is the Jawahar Kala Kendra, built in 1986, with modern architectural design, which is a building worthy of being a wonder.
The architectural plan of Kala Kendra takes inspiration from the original city plan of Jaipur which was conceived by Maharaja Jai Singh, who articulated his city plan based on the ‘Shilpa Shastras’. These Shilpa Shastras have their roots in the ancient Vedic mandala of nine squares or houses, representing the nine planets (including two imaginary ones Ketu and Rahu). Each square corresponds to a particular planet of the ‘Navagraha’ and its special qualities have been used to dictate the functionality of each square, in addition to the style of architectural design implemented. For example, the library is located at the square corresponding to planet Mercury or Budh which has been traditionally attributed with the quality of knowledge. The central square is a void that represents the ‘Nothing, which is Everything’, which could be seen in Correa’s works time and again.
Each square is of dimension 30x30x8 m. The various spaces in the plan involve the Library, printmaking studio, museum, terracotta gallery, Chaturdik gallery, Sukriti gallery, Surekha gallery, Parjit-1 gallery, Parjit-2 gallery, workshops, cafeteria, guest house, open-air theatre, theatre, and Shilpagram.
Correa believed in a meaningful and purposeful expression of the interiors. The interplay of natural and ambient light, shadow, and color of the material palette portray visual poetry. Local materials have been used at every design opportunity.
The surrounding walls of the open theatre and seating are encased with locally sourced sandstone.
The ambiance of the food court is set as a reminiscence of the traditional architecture of the rural areas of Rajasthan, which is very traditional and raw.
Shilpgram complex adjoins the main building. It is designed as a six hut rural complex which represents life in various regions of Rajasthan.
Ismaili Centre, Toronto -
In designing the Ismaili Centre, Correa’s vision was to create a building that corresponds to the traditions of Islamic architecture but in a contemporary design and using modern materials.
The Centre is a complex of varied spaces for contemplative, cultural, educational and recreational purposes. Its design draws upon the traditions of Islamic architecture and incorporates these in a contemporary Canadian context, reflecting the Ismaili community’s permanent presence in Canada as well as its desire to welcome others in a cultural exchange.
The most striking feature of the Ismaili Centre is undoubtedly the prayer hall. Its crystalline frosted glass dome and elegant steel trusses attract every eye. The Centre’s exterior and the surrounding Park reflect these notions in their terraces, gardens and reflecting pools, presenting a serene space that is both modern and timeless.
Approaching the prayer hall through the anteroom, one sees the Muqarnas, which is a finely crafted corbelled ceiling whose skylight provides a subtle transition from the outside to the serene prayer hall inside. Connecting the prayer hall and social area of the building is a generous foyer and its geometric stone floor pattern that flows from one to the other providing physical and visual connections between the two distinctive spaces. In the social hall, the ceiling is a high one, almost two stories high, and the descending glass roof once again fills it with natural light while the glass doors open to the gardens beyond.
The slightly raised atrium lounge anchors the foyer and embraces natural light as its glass walls rise through the upper floor to yet another skylight. A library and several classrooms are on this floor, while the upper level is home to administrative offices and a formal boardroom that opens onto a spacious stone terrace with views of the city and park below.
Viewing the complete work of Correa’s architectural marvels, one finds a great finesse in the tectonic crafting of buildings and form as well as a genuine concern with ‘good architecture’. The use of local materials and understanding the needs of the people is the most important feature of his works. Though we lost Correa in 2015, his legacy continues through his artwork.