Ar. Gerard da Cunha is a dynamic person who cannot be limited by traditional forms or everyday things. His building expresses similar ideas through language and its varied strokes. A language of boundless inventiveness, an expression of unrestrained free will, stating plainly his thinking and impulses. Architect Gerard da Cunha of Architecture Autonomous is a person who lives totally by his green philosophy, including it in all of his projects, whether in their reaction to nature or the materials used in construction.
“I didn’t want the usual stairs and classrooms and wanted to create a fantasy land for the children. So, I incorporated outdoor classrooms, a slide that goes through the entire building and an amphitheatre with walls made of glass bottles.”-Gerard da Cunha.
Embracing A Sustainable Way
Da Cunha was strongly influenced by architect Laurie Baker and had briefly left his architecture course in between to work with Baker, during which time his perspective of architecture changed on how to build and how to look at a site. Da Cunha’s leaning from the beginning was towards the use of natural materials, salvaged or recycled items. His predilection for ensuring that his spaces kept that strong relationship between interiors and exteriors, where the interiors enjoyed plentiful natural daylight and ventilation while the structure assured the temperature inside was naturally cool, was equally strong.
“I was inspired by his simple and efficient techniques and it was through him that I was able to imbibe my style. As a result, none of the work that I have done so far is standardised. Every structure has been built concerning the local materials available and the nature of the land” -Gerard da Cunha.
The three-story House of Goa Museum, recognised for its distinctive ship-like construction, is one of Gerard’s most popular works. Nisha’s Play School and Shiksha Niketan, both in Goa, provide witness to the architect’s distinct style, which incorporates the utilisation of a variety of abandoned materials.And one of his more intricate projects, JSW Township, has earned a lot of attention for its use of locally sourced materials and low budget. All of these were created with limited resources and investigated various degrees of spatial experience.
House of Goa Museum
His unusual approach to architecture is seen in the design of the Houses of Goa Museum. The museum, which is located on a triangular site, has chosen a distinctive geometrical shape whose ultimate progression defies a specified format, with the angles of the structure seeming completely different depending on which aspect of the building is viewed. When viewed from above, the naturally sloping roof, jutting balconies, slanted grills, and smooth contours “create the appearance of a bird taking flight. “Gerard’s ‘Houses of Goa’ Museum in Torda, Goa, is a must-see architectural marvel. The three-story laterite stone museum is designed like an odd triangle. The museum, often known as Gerard’s “traffic island,” features walls that spread out like a ship.
“With only 40 sqm on each floor, one could easily get a glimpse of Goa’s rich cultural heritage and history beginning with 1300 BC with photographic images, maps, models of historic houses, the repository of designed pillars, windows styles, carved furniture, false ceilings, tiles, and literary works of houses and the inhabitants of Goa even before the Portuguese invasion,” says architect Yash Shah, who visited the museum in 2018.He goes on to describe how Gerard turned the ground-level café into a semi-museum by showing images of different Goanese residences’ kitchens and bathrooms, all for a total of Rs 20 Lakh.
“The energy of the space, local resources, the budget, land availability, and traditional features that are significant to that particular place all influence the design of each project,” Gerard continues.
Because of his architectural style, which is strongly connected with preserving traditions, government officials commissioned Gerard to reconstruct Goa’s oldest fort, Reis Magos Fort, which had been in ruins for quite some time. Following its renovation, the fort is now a renowned tourist site highlighting Goa’s history.
Gerard also built the Goa State Central Library in Panaji, which houses over 180,000 books.
Nisha’s Play School and Shiksha Niketan
The distinctive designs of two Goa schools, Nisha’s Play School and Shiksha Niketan have also gained much recognition. In its design, his primary school project offers a nature-oriented developing experience. The multi-level interiors include curving, slanted walls and arches, as well as an intermixture of indoor and outdoor courtyards.Large grilled openings allow for plenty of natural light and ventilation, while green interior courtyards with trees bring nature into the classrooms while maintaining temperatures cool. Large overhangs protect the shutterless windows from rain and strong sunshine.
These two schools, located on a slope, have been specially created for two age groups. The playschool is for children aged 4-6, while the preschool is for children in grades 1-4. Gerard opted to construct a dream environment for the children, combining outdoor classrooms, a slide that runs the length of the structure, and an amphitheatre with walls made of glass bottles, instead of the typical stairs and classrooms seen in Indian schools.
The amount of consideration that went into the smallest things of how children would use the school blew everyone away; it’s a completely new perspective of the world they’ll get to see. The utilisation of materials for building such as bricks, mud, mosaic tiles, and even glass bottles demonstrates a very direct, but innovative approach to ecological and vernacular architecture.”
Gerard took on the responsibility of creating a township for the JSW Steel Plant in Vidyanagar, Karnataka, for Rs 150 crore. The project was supposed to house 10,000 people on 300 acres. Gerard and his colleagues installed everything from sewer lines to transformers to treatment facilities to telephone infrastructure.He didn’t have a hard time getting materials since so, used granite for the majority of the project and employed prefabricated systems and Cuddappah stone, which was popular in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.He thought in clusters and figure out what elements were distinctive to that particular place.
From 1998–to 99, the architect received the coveted Prime Minister’s National Award for Excellence in Urban Planning and Design for the project. He also received the ‘Commendation Award-1990’ for rural architecture for his work on the ‘Nrityagram’ project in Bengaluru, Karnataka. The edifice, which was one of his early works as well as a “dream project” that was built on a budget, makes extensive use of locally accessible Chappadi stone. “The design is centred on utility, with sunshine streaming in via jaalis and a combination of domes and stone carving lending a complicated though joyful architecture,” da Cunha explains.
“All of my architecture is predicated on constructing a structure that belongs in that place.” Our country has such distinct traditions and customs, yet when it comes to architecture, we are increasingly choosing more uniform buildings and materials that are not regionally specific. This may be changed in the next years.”-Gerard da Cunha
Da Cunha’s home, nestled among deep greens, exemplifies the geometric fluid interlinked spaces, the intensive link of the internal rooms with the outdoors, and the various many choices of the roof structure, all of which firmly identify his design tendencies. The innards of this exposed irregular rubble wall structure are distinguished by shutter-free grill windows, a strong design inclination of da Cunha, whereas the Goan vaulted roof, stained glass vents, and recovered clay tile flooring combine alluringly with the old-world furniture. His projects offer absolute raw beauty, with the interior spaces exhibiting a strong connectedness as well as a powerful streak of the undetermined, whether in the structure’s angles and geometry or the outer façade. His roofs are unique, with a diverse blend of slopes, curves, and domes. The materials utilised are left in their original state, with bricks, stones, and wood revealed in their natural state.
- Shah, A. (2018, December 24). Gerard Da Cunha’s Architectural gems.. Retrieved from Tao Studio: https://taoarchitecture.com/news/gerard-da-cunhas-architectural-gems.php
- Sundar, N. (2016, April 29). Raw, and close to nature. Retrieved from The Hindu: https://www.thehindu.com/features/homes-and-gardens/raw-and-close-to-nature/article8536996.ece
- Zachariah, S. S. (2020, July 15). Goan Architect Turns ‘Waste’ Into Beauty Through his Breathtaking Buildings. Retrieved from The better India: https://www.thebetterindia.com/232901/goa-architect-discarded-materials-waste-green-sustainable-home-house-of-goa-museum-shiksha-niketan-ser106/