Joyless June 2015: R. I. P. Doyens of Indian Art, Architecture & Design
Close on the heels of Hema Sankalia, arguably India’s most dynamic woman architect, comes another deeply saddening news of the demise of Charles Correa arguably India’s greatest architect! And somewhere between the two, we also lost Nek Chand, arguably the best known Indian sculptor, and the creator of the famed Rock Garden of Chandigarh! The Future Of Design mourns the three huge losses to the fraternity of art, architecture and design.
The beedi-puffing rebel, the feminist with the gorgeous cotton sarees and the big red bindi has left behind a legacy in her contribution towards CAC – Contemporary Arts & Crafts – an organization conceived and established by Ar. Piloo & Vina Mody with Hema’s husband Shireesh. Her career as an architect spanned over four decades and she did several projects in Madhya Pradesh, including the much-acclaimed Kalidasa Akademi in Ujjain and a large housing project for CIDCO at Sanpada, in New Mumbai. Hema was appointed as Consultant Architect for EPCO - Environment and Planning Coordination Organisation - a Department of Housing and Environment, Government of Madhya Pradesh, between 1982 and 1986. The dynamic architect-academician had chosen to lead a quiet retired life in Pune; and also had a long fight against cancer. The lady passed away peacefully on the 2nd of June 2015 – a huge loss to Indian design.
Nek Chand, a self-taught artist was the creator of the extraordinary Rock Garden of Chandigarh, a 25-acre environment blending sculpture, architecture and visionary landscape. The garden takes the form of a series of chambers and courtyards, with winding walkways suddenly opening out to large vistas and high waterfalls. The uniqueness of the 2000+ sculptures was in the choice of materials - broken bottles, bangles, crockery, electric plugs, fluorescent tubes, bicycle frames, shells, cooking pots and even old, discarded, broken bathroom fittings! His figures of queens and courtiers, beggars and ministers, schoolchildren, revellers and dancers, monkeys, elephants and camels are set in different chambers linked by low arches and covered in mosaic. The Padmashri-winner celebrated his 90th birthday last December and passed away on the midnight of 12th June 2015.
And yesterday we woke up to the news of the passing on of one name oft quoted as the “greatest Indian architect” Charles Correa. What a humongous loss to international architecture!! Inspiring generations of architects over six decades of practice, there is simply no other Indian architect who has wielded so much influence across the world. His architecture stems from an organic approach, a deep-rooted sensitivity to climate, culture and context. The poetic, metaphysical quality of his buildings has a universal appeal; at once thrilling and satisfying.
Correa received numerous prestigious national and international awards, including the Padmashri, the Royal Gold Medal by the Royal Institute of British Architects and even the Padma Vibhushan in 2006. His portfolio includes several landmark buildings, dotting his illustrious journey of architecture. Starting with the Gandhi Memorial at Sabarmati, when he was only 28, his most recently completed buildings from a career that spanned six decades – are the Ismaili Centre in Toronto, the Brain Science Center at MIT, Boston and the Champalimaud Centre in Lisbon. One of his most notable buildings is the Kanchanjunga Apartment Block in Mumbai – a structure way ahead of its times, and one that manages to inspire awe and respect – even today. Other wonderful structures include Bharat Bhavan, Vidhan Bhavan in Bhopal, the Permanent Mission of India at the UN in New York, the Cidade de Goa and the Kala Academy in Goa.
The legendary architect passed away on the night of 16th June, following a brief illness. He was 84. Correa’s demise leaves a vaccuum in Indian architecture.