|"When I started as an architect in Bombay, I was not
all that confident. It was just that my compulsion to create was greater than my fear of
failure," says Charles Correa, the man who in the course of his career has been
proffered almost every laurel that an architect could desire, including the Royal Gold
Medal of Architecture, the Chicago Architecture Award, the Padma Shri and the Praemium
Correa, 64, born into a middle-class Catholic family in Bombay, became fascinated with the
principles of design as a child. He went to the US, where he did his Bachelors at the
University of Michigan and his Doctorate at MIT before returning to India in the mid-'50s.
He rose to prominence with the Gandhi Smarak Sanghralaya, which he designed in 1958 in
Ahmedabad. "The India of those days was a different place," he recollects.
"India was a brand-new country. There was so much hope. India stimulated me."
Correa threw himself into a variety of projects like low-cost housing. In the 1970s he
worked on a proposal for a twin city across the harbour. New Bombay was planned not as a
suburb, but as an independent township. But the relocation of government offices that
Correa felt was necessary if New Bombay was ever to be a viable proposition never took
place. And Correa watches sadly as Vashi swells into a soulless suburb, home to many
Correa has worked on several interesting projects, including the Titan township in
Bangalore and the Madhya Pradesh Assembly in Bhopal.
In the course of his projects, a fair amount of negative feedback has gone Correa's way.
Bombay's Kanchenjunga, the residential high-rise with verandahs and gardens scooped out of
its side and Salvacao Church, an arrangement of giant concrete shells, have been strongly
criticised. "I take criticism on the chin," admits Correa. "It knocks me
out but it makes me stop and think."
While Correa is always receptive to feedback, he has never compromised or changed designs
he really believes in. "I listen very carefully. But I would rather lose the client
than make changes I don't believe in,"
India's first man of architecture has a very simple philosophy: "Unless you believe
in what you do, it becomes so boring," he says. There is little doubt that Correa
believes in what he does. When he talks about his work, the words tumble out at top speed,
the enthusiasm is palpable. Which makes him what he is - innovative, dynamic, architect
Architect, planner, activist and theoretician,
Charles Correa has emerged as a major figure in contemporary architecture world wide. He
studied architecture at the University of Michigan and at MIT. In private practice in
Bombay since 1958, his work covers a wide range, from the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial at the
Sabarmati Ashram, to the Jawahar Kala Kendra in Jaipur, and the State Assembly for Madhya
Pradesh - as well as townships and housings projects in Delhi, Bombay, Ahmedabad and other
cities in India.
Over the last four decades, Correa has done pioneering work in urban
issues and low cost shelter in the Third World. From 1970-75, he was Chief Architect for
New Bombay an urban growth centre of 2 million people, across the harbour from
the existing city. In 1985, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi appointed him Chairman of the
National Commission on Urbanisation.
His work has been published in many architectural journals and
books, including the 1987 Mimar and the 1996 Thames & Hudson monographs devoted to his
work. He has taught at universities both in India and abroad, including Harvard, The
University of Pennsylvania, Tulane and Washington Universities, and has been the Sir
Banister Fletcher Professor at the University of London, the Albert Bemis Professor at
MIT, and the Jawaharlal Nehru Professor at Cambridge.
In 1980 Correa was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University
of Michigan, and in 1984 he received the Gold Medal of the Royal Institute of British
Architects. In 1987 the Gold Medal of the Indian Institute of Architects, in 1990 the Gold
Medal of the UIA (International Union of Architects), and in 1994 the Premium Imperiale