Regarded for revamping the definition of ‘Post Independence’ Architecture of India, Charles Mark Correa was an urban planner and an architect with a prolific career and a wide expanse of work, ranging from low-cost to luxurious structures, spread all across the country. Literally called ‘India’s Greatest Architect’, Correa was responsible for nearly hundred built structures, all unique in their own features, but linked under a common concept of sustainable-traditional principles. Even though the icon passed away in, his legacy lives through his works, such as: Jawahar Kala Kendra, in Jaipur; Mahatma Gandhi Memorial at Sabarmati Ashram and Kanchanjunga Apartments in Mumbai.
Some interesting, lesser-known facts about the Architect are summed up below:
1. The ‘Unconventonal’ Modernist:
By strongly rejecting ‘cold glass and steel’ structures of the west, Correa redefined the principles of modernism, to adapt to the traditional Indian society. Unlike some of his contemporaries, he didn’t see tradition and modernity being mutually exclusive, rather he developed one to fit into the other. Correa was aware that a poor-developing nation such as India would not be able to match the westernized techniques, and so derived a way to incorporate its benefits into the Indian context.
2. Stand-Out Amongst Contemproaries:
Contrary to his Indian contemporaries like- B.V. Doshi and HabibRahman who were working on the footsteps on Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius respectively, Correa made the bold step to not his buildings be ‘influenced’ by any other master. He, in fact studied their works, understood the concepts and further developed his own style based on these learnings. Evidently, all his work speaks of his distinctive style, independent of any ‘foreign touch’.
3. Design, Concepts And Style:
The architect’s design concepts sprouted out of local, vernacular techniques, mixed with modern, sustainable solutions. Correa was known for his knack for regarding the site, context, local materials and nature in his works. Creating open terraces, courtyards and spaces filled with air and natural light, and incorporating cost-effecting, energy conserving and water harvesting techniques were the always reflected in his structures.
4. Greatest ‘Indian’ Architect:
The significance of this title, given by RIBA is evidently in the architect’s work; which are a result of a unique and deep-rooted understanding of India’s rich traditions- in terms of both society and vernacular. Being sensitive towards the users and site, Correa designed the buildings that responded to the surroundings, that complemented the context and landscape of India.
5. Spectrum of Work:
The vast career of Charles Correa is a compilation of numerous works, ranging from private residential, commercial to cultural and low-cost group housing works. Belapur Housing (Low-income housing) and Kanchanjunga (high-rise housing), in Mumbai, British Council and L.I.C. JeewanBharti Building, in New Delhi, Bharat Bhawan and VidhanSabha in Bhopal, are the examples of his work, spread across the country.
6. Design Philosophy At Micro Level:
Correa focused on ‘experiencing architecture as an energy filed that one moves through’, and suggested a new living style by ‘using a house in a nomadic way’ (not restricting an area to a single, confined activity). These were the two attributes that developed the architect’s initial style. Being a promotor of passive construction techniques, Correa preferred smart shading and orientation with added methods to provide the optimal living environment naturally.
7. Design At Macro Level: Case Of Navi Mumbai
‘Our cities are among the greatest things that we have; they are part of the wealth of India’- Charles Correa.
Always interested in the functioning of Indian cities, in their resilience despite their permanent state of crisis, Correa pondered for ways to improve them without erasing their strengths. His design approach for the planning on Navi Mumbai, as the Chief Architect revolved around decentralization of spaces to enhance crowd and traffic movement throughout the city. In the time of modernization, Correa opted for low-rise housing solutions, instead of the prevalent, typical high-rise ones.
8. Lesser Popular Work: The Tube House
Built in 1962, (but demolished in 1965), the Tube House counts among the first few works of the architect. The House was developed as a prototype for ‘low-cost’ housing, developed on the principles of ‘Form follows climate’; erected in Gujrat. With minimal use of windows, and air vents that help circulating cool air through the living space, the house would act as an example for Correa’s later works. Remarkably, the Tube House was the perfect cheap-ecofriendly house, long before it became fashionable.
9. International Examples:
Charles Correa’s works are not only limited to India, but are scattered across the globe. Carrying out his tradition of designing climate responsive buildings, Correa has managed to spread his influence on the global trends in architecture. Some of the international examples of his works are: McGovern Institute for Brain Research in Boston, Champalimaud Centre for The Unknown in Lisbon, Portugal and Ismaili Centre, Toronto.
10. Awards And Recognitions:
His profound knowledge and an unconventional yet sensitive approach to architecture has bestowed Correa with international fame, and numerous prestigious awards; both regional as well as international. Awarded PadmaShree in 1972, and Padma Vibhushan later in 2006- two of India’s highest honors, and RIBA Gold Medal in 1984, Charles Correa is also the recipient of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture (for VidhanSabha, Madhya Pradesh).
The architect has also penned down various books on architecture such as: A Place in shade, Modernity and Community, The Ritualistic Pathway, Form follows Climate- to name a few.