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The Legend Lives On: IIID Tribute to late architect Charles Correa

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on February 06, 2016 at 12:39 PM

There is very little that we do not know about Charles Correa – the architect. Numerous articles, interviews, books, exhibitions, seminars, documentaries and films have showcased his architecture. Modernism – that was the architectural ideology that Correa breathed. He had unflinching faith in it, and he zealously practiced and preached it.

His death has left a void most difficult to fill; but his architecture, his legacy continues to live on.  The Institute of Indian Interior Design (IIID)'s Mumbai Regional Centre recently gave a wonderful tribute to the late architect at an event held at the NCPA, Mumbai – fully sponsored by GM Modular.

The function put together by the able team of IIID MRC, had legendary architect B. V. Doshi gracing it as the Chief Guest. The tribute was unique – because it offered the audience some rare glimpses into Charles Correa – as a person.

Here are some excerpts… for our readers!

© Courtesy of IIID, MRC

Charles Correa (1 September 1930 – 16 June 2015) was a much acclaimed, award-winning Indian architect, urban planner and activist – who is among the first to have brought international glory to Indian architecture.

In post-Independence India, Correa found it imperative to break away from the Colonial hangover and create an architectural idiom for a free nation. While the “movement” as such had started in the West, India was still groping in the dark. As most leading architects of the era had either studied/worked abroad or worked with the likes of Kahn and Corbusier in India, the ‘movement’ reached Indian shores. Correa was a proud and staunch Modernist – his sensitivity to climate, context, client, site and design program – manifests in all his work.  Much sensitized to the importance of using traditional methods and materials as also to the needs of the urban poor, Correa had dedicated himself to the protection of the built environment and improvement of urban communities.

While a lot of work done in the 50’s and 60’s veered between banal functionalism and self-aggrandizing formalism, Correa infused the soul of India in his starkly Modernist approach. Awarded the Padma Shri in 1972, and the second highest civilian honour, the Padma Vibhushan in 2006; Correa is also the recipient of the 1984 Royal Gold Medal for architecture, by the Royal Institute of British Architects, Correa’s architecture is known to all as being contemporary and contemplative. 

The event put together by IIID MRC was unique and exclusive – it gave the audience a peek into the person that Charles Correa was – via the people who had worked closely with him over the five-and-a-half decades of his practice. The event was attended by present IIID President Ar. Pratap Jadhav, as well as many previous Presidents such as Ar. Prem Nath, Ar. Bakir Baldiwala, Ar. Atul Desai, Ar. Rajesh Patel and Ar. Nitin Killawala. The IIID MRC of course attended in full strength - with all office bearers and active members present at the exclusive do. TFOD The Future Of Design - www.tfod.in - was a special media invitee. Ar. Khozema Chitalwala was at the helm of organizing the event which was driven by Interior Designer Ketan Sheth and Mr. Kashyap Patwa. Anchored by Ar. Hemanti Sutaria, IIID MRC Chairman Ar. Ketan Vaidya gave an introductory speech to throw open the event. 

The first person invited to the dais, was reputed structural engineer Kamal Hadkar, who has been closely associated with Correa for over five decades, and on several buildings all over the country. Hadkar recalled several stories and shared some fascinating insights into Correa’s child-like quest for excellence. He recounted instances when the entire design was scrapped and changed overnight – even at a much later stage in the commission – because Correa got a “better idea”!

Correa’s child-like approach to the craft was a fact reiterated by almost all the speakers – each elucidating it with his own experiences. Sankalp Meshram – renowned photographer, film-maker, editor - was the second speaker to be called on the dais. Meshram has made films on Correa as well as edited a film scripted and directed by Correa. He regaled the audience with some intriguing insights into the state of present Indian architecture vis-à-vis the architecture and philosophy of Correa. The most recent being a film called ‘Into The Unknown’ that showcased Correa's design for the Champalimaud Centre, at Lisbon; Meshram reflected poignantly on the life lessons he learnt through his encounters with the genius. 

Correa was equally passionate about music and thus, fittingly adding a few notes of music to the gathering was well-known opera singer Marie Paul singing the late architect’s favourite composition ‘The Impossible Dream’ by Frank Sinatra! 

Ar. Ruturaj Parekh – who has dedicated himself to the Charles Correa Foundation in Goa, then gave a brief retrospective on the organization’s mission and vision – and gave reassuring information on how the Correa legacy will live on. 

This was followed by architects Sachin Agshikar and Abhinav Wakhle – who have worked with Correa in his firm, and later associated on projects – gave glimpses into the man – as the Boss. 

Agshikar, a self-confessed admirer of Correa – reveres him as his Guru. Joining Correa’s firm on 1st September 1995,  Agshikar got a close view of the many facets of the man – including his zest for life, incredible energy, passion for excellence, pursuit of precision, dedication, discipline, wonderful sense of humour – and of course his famous temper! Full of admiration for the man, the architect, the visionary – Agshikar delivered delightfully summarized excerpts from his long association. 

Ar. Abhinav Wakhle too worked in Correa’s studio for six years and has spent the last four years archiving the massive body of work generated in 55 years of Charles Correa’s practice. The documentation work that he did helped him unearth the greater intensity of Correa’s thoughts; which Wakhle believes was not quite possible in the course of being associated with the studio merely as an architect. And he dug out from the archives an animation film made by Correa in his student years – which show a community, effects of urban development on the community and discusses solutions to urban issues.

And then Marie Paul once again took the stage and delivered a stunning rendition of “Those were the days my friend…” by Mary Hopkins. Dr. B. V. Doshi fondly remembers listening to this song, during each and every meeting he had with his late friend Charles Correa.

Once upon a time there was a tavern
Where we used to raise a glass or two
Remember how we laughed away the hours
And dreamed of all the great things we could do

Those were the days my friend
We thought they'd never end
We'd sing and dance forever and a day
We'd live the life we choose
We'd fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way.

Then the busy years went rushing by us
We lost our starry notions on the way
If by chance I'd see you in the tavern
We'd smile at one another and we'd say

Those were the days my friend
We thought they'd never end
We'd sing and dance forever and a day
We'd live the life we choose
We'd fight and never lose
Those were the days, oh yes those were the days
La la la la...

And so singing, she stepped down from the stage and held Dr. B V Doshi by the hand and amidst much applause ushered him over to the stage!  The living legend of Indian architecture, Dr. B. V. Doshi needs no introduction. The veteran architect shared some special moments of his fifty years of friendship with the late Charles Correa. He mesmerized all with his profound talk on the life and work of Correa, enumerating their first meeting, subsequent encounters, and how their friendship grew over several and varied discussions on their common passions - art, architecture, design, music  and movies.  A thunderous ovation, followed by a standing applause was a fitting tribute to the two legends of Indian architecture – Doshi and Correa.

Mr. Jayanth Jain from GM Modular then recounted the evening’s insightful talks and thanked IIID for putting forth an exclusive tribute to Ar. Charles Correa –  followed by IIID MRC's Ketan Sheth who gave a Vote of Thanks and thus brought an end to an enlightening evening!  

Photo Captions:

The Venue; Ar. B. V. Doshi, Ar. Pratap Jadhav & Ar. Prem Nath; Other dignitaries in the audience; Ar. Hemanti Sutaria anchoring the event; Ar. Ketan Vaidya - Chairman IIID MRC; Ar. Pratap JAdhav honouring Mr. Kamal Hadkar; Mr. Sankalp Meshram; Ar. Ruturaj Parekh of the Charles Correa Foundation; Ar. Sachin Agshikar; Ar. Abhinav Wakhle; Singer Marie Paul ushering Ar. B. V. Doshi on the stage; Ar. B. V. Doshi on the stage; Mr. Ketan Sheth and Mr. Kashyap Patwa - the IIID MRC men behind the event; Mr. Jayanth Jain of GM Modular felicitating Ar. B. V. Doshi; Ar. Doshi thanking the audience for the standing ovation.

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