“Certainly, architecture is concerned with much more than just its physical attributes. It is a many-layered thing. Beneath and beyond the strata of function and structure, materials and texture, lie the deepest and most compulsive layers of all.” — Charles Correa
Charles Correa, one of India’s most imaginative architects and urban planners, altered the appearance of several Indian towns after independence. Correa’s worldview arose in a newly independent socialist India, a Nehruvian culture committed to modernity and nation-building. In India, Charles Correa constructed almost 100 structures ranging from low-income housing to luxury condos. Correa focused a lot on the relationship between climate, material, and culture, making his designs timeless and still relevant as we approach the future.
Born on 1 September 1930, he was always into sketching and loved Hornby trains, because of which later he decided to be an architect. Correa began his studies at the University of Mumbai’s Saint Xavier’s College before moving on to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor (1949–53) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge Massachusetts (1953–55). He started his architecture practice in Mumbai and later went on to work on projects worldwide.
His Design Approach
His early work incorporated traditional architectural elements. His work was distinguished by standard symmetrical rooms, modernist use of materials, distinctive concrete forms, and location. Correa began his work as an urban planner in the late 1960s, designing New Bombay. Even though he was schooled in the West, he was not interested in International Style Modernism from his career. He has always placed a higher value on traditional or vernacular architecture, working towards his design language.
Correa never attempted to reproduce the vernacular or traditional architecture components but rather took the core of these ideas and changed them in the setting, using his thorough knowledge of cultural values, mythical beliefs, and history.
Later projects like Vidhan Bhawan and Jawahar Kala Kendra demonstrate his maturity in dealing with “Critical Regionalism.” He attempted to connect the past with the present to establish the lost or new identity of Independent India via architecture.
Here are some notable works by Correa:
Jaipur, India’s pink city, is home to this multi-arts center. Correa finished the Jawahar Kala Kendra design in 1986, and the structure was completed in 1991. The method of this tower was influenced by the original city layout of Jaipur, which consisted of 9 squares with the central square left open. It may be argued that Jawahar Kala Kendra is an excellent example of contextualizing old architectural ideas today. The planning of this art center has so much cohesiveness in its planning, construction materials, spaces, colors, and symbols that it represents Jaipur’s character while also giving the national identity.
Correa’s design for the Kendra closely references the ancient navagraha or nine-house mandala. One of the squares is rotated to evoke the old city layout while also serving as the entryway. The passage through the structure, via its heavenly divisions, is defined by a range of spatial densities.
- National Crafts Museum, Delhi
The National Crafts Museum is centered on an open-to-the-sky-core route, and the courtyard has been designed around this main road. It appears that the open to the sky road concept was inspired by the great Hindu and Buddhist temples of the past when the whole edifice was organized around the proper way. This is a perfect example of showcasing the local and national character of crafts via architecture, places, materials, and other factors. Correa was inspired by major Buddhist and Hindu temples from the past. The crafts museum is designed around a central walkway that reveals many rooms along the pedestrian spine.
- Gandhi Smarak Sangrahalaya
To represent the simplicity of Gandhi’s life and beliefs, this commission was Charles Correa’s first significant job in private practise.This memorial museum is housed at the Mahatma’s ashram, where he resided from 1917 until 1930. The structure’s modular simplicity is retained using simple materials: stone floors, brick walls, wooden doors and louvered windows without glass, and pitched roofs. This simple and human-scaled monument, which houses his writings, letters, and pictures, employs brick piers, stone floors, and tiled roofs to create a contemporary expression for the spirit of swadeshi. The building’s palette includes wood doors, stone flooring, ceramic tile roofs, and brick columns.
Charles Correa has received the Royal Institute of British Architects Gold Medal, Japanese Premium Imperiale, Aga Khan Award for Architecture, and worldwide respect for his unique ideas ahead of their times. It is an undeniable fact that Charles Correa revolutionized Indian architecture post-independence era. His designs were more about building communities that could use the space for a long, long time. These design philosophies and various projects will serve as a wonderful example of architecture that is true to its environment, connecting the spaces with its rich cultural history while moving towards the future.
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