By Rahul Vaishnavi & Quaid Najmi
In an otherwise crowded world of architects, two names that immediately stand out are Le Corbusier and Charles Correa.
Corbusier’s legacy was an entire city – Chandigarh. Correa, who passed away in Mumbai on Tuesday evening aged 84, had that and more.
Correa’s demise has left a void that will be impossible to fill feel many renowned architects.
“With his designs and creations, Correa was catapulted to heights of fame and glory… He was the face of modern Indian architecture in the world and truly represented the country,” well-known architect Hafeez Contractor said.
Terming his death as “a major blow” to Indian architecture and the community of architects and urban planners, Contractor said: “Entire generations have learnt or have been inspired by him. The void would be impossible to fill.”
Correa designed many landmarks like Gandhi Smarak Sangrahalaya, Ahmedabad, the Handloom Pavilion in Delhi, Bharat Bhavan and Vidhan Bhavan in Madhya Pradesh, Jawahar Kala Kendra in Jaipur, the Permanent Mission of India at the UN in New York, the Kala Academy in Goa and what was origianlly the state-run Kovalam Beach resort in Kerala, among many more.
He was the chief architect of Navi Mumbai, the satellite suburb of Indian’s financial capital and went on to set up the Urban Design Research Institute (UDRI) in 1984, dedicated to protecting the environment and improving urban communities.
The Padma Shri (1972) and Padma Vibhushan (2006) award winner taught at several universities in India and abroad and it was his lectures at the School of Urban Planning and Architecture that greatly inspired one of his students, K.T. Ravindran, an urban designer and former chairman of the Delhi Urban Arts Commission.
“My association with him goes back to the 1970s when I met him as a student. I attended his lectures at the School of Planning and Architecture a number of times,” Ravindran said.
Correa was particularly known for his ‘contextual designs’ which complimented the local climates and building styles.
The Jeevan Bharti building in Delhi’s Connaught Place was his creation and a futuristic design for its time that left many in awe.
“His designs were keenly contextual depending upon the project his approach to a design would vary. He was the most important and consequential architect India has produced in this century,” said Ravindran, adding that the District Centre in Salt Lake City in Kolkata was his best design in India.
However, a visit to Berlin to judge a competition along with Correa left a lasting impression on Ravindran.
“I got an opportunity to travel with him to Berlin to be a part of the jury of an architectural competition and it was an eye-opening experience for me because the man was so well informed and such a witty conversationalist. The whole group of ambassadors were eating out of his hands,” Ravindran said.
Eminent urban planner Ravi Kadam described Correa as an architect with a vision that could “blend history with futuristic aspirations for the present generation”.
“Correa was a bigger legend than some of his legendary creations over the years,” Kadam said.
His works in Kerala – the 183-room Leela Kovalam, a five-star hotel that’s perched on a peak overlooking the sea, and the Parumala Church located near Thiruvalla about 120 km from the Capital will remain immortal, feel many.
The church, seating more than 2,000 worshippers reflects the history, tradition and culture of a conventional Indian church while the iconic hotel, built originally for the India Tourism Development Corporation during 1969-74 is an architectural marvel till date.