Goa Culture Minister Calls Charles Correa’s Work a Faulty Design | Kala Academy Renovation

prominent cultural centres Kala Academy

One of Goa’s prominent cultural centres Kala Academy which had been designed by celebrated Indian architect and urban planner late Charles Correa recently has grabbed attention for all the wrong reasons. Located in Goa’s capital Panaji, the renovation of the Kala Academy building has stirred a war of words between culture minister Govind Gaude and the Charles Correa Foundation when the foundation reportedly accused the government of changing the core design element of the building.

According to the Charles Correa Foundation, the change in the design element of the heritage building will cause the building to no more stay the same building which had been designed by the late Charles Correa. The academy is one of the finest examples of architect Charles Correa’s work and also showcases renowned caricaturist Mario Miranda’s hand-painted murals which adorn the walls of the main auditorium. The building also platforms the world’s foremost acoustic consultants Bolt Beranek and Newman, who also designed the acoustics of the United Nations permanent headquarters in New York.

A masterpiece curated by many masters

Although the building is in need of repairs, Charles Correa’s daughter Nondita Correa Mehrotra, who is also director of the foundation, accused the government of maintaining a lack of transparency which is causing huge trouble. She was quoted saying: “The architecture is not just the walls, the roof or the ceiling; it’s everything. The design of it is all the finishes, the colours you choose, where you choose to put the murals. If we start changing everything else and just keep the walls and the slab, it’s not going to be the same design. It’s not going to have the same ambience at all.” Upon this, Goa culture minister Govind Gaude hit back saying that the iconic building had a faulty design and the foundation set up by Charles Correa was reportedly no longer a stakeholder who needed to be consulted at the time of renovation.

The Kala Academy building was among the first cultural centres in the newly liberated territory of Goa. Built in the 1960s, the structure quickly emerged as a centre for art, culture and music. The main auditorium of the building is named after Dinanath Mangeshkar, father of late Lata Mangeshkar, who hailed from Goa.

Although in the past renovations were conducted that brought about changes, the current renovation scenario would be an opportunity to restore the original design of the building, informs foundation convener Tahir Noronha. Reportedly, in the past, the artwork had been changed. However, today it is not possible to replicate Mario Miranda’s mural wall, which is one of the seven murals of Miranda in the world or the core design elements which lie in Charles’s ideas of using earthy colours representing Goa’s tambdi mati (red mud). Also, the auditorium is the only auditorium in India that is designed by Bolt Beranek and Newman.

The tiff

The foundation is unfortunately kept out of the renovation. According to reports, Mehrotra had been quoted saying: “We are frustrated at not being able to have any influence on this. We had said that we are here to help you, we have all the archives, we have all the original drawings and we would do it pro bono. We are not asking for anything. We know that it would change way too drastically if it’s not done in the right spirit.” To this, Gaude had asked its conservation architects to not interfere in the renovation. According to a leading daily, the minister was quoted saying that Charles Correa’s services were taken for designs and aesthetics, and had he taken the responsibility for all the issues at the time, the government wouldn’t need to repeatedly renovate it. According to him, the design is a faulty one where Charles failed to give attention to the maintenance point of view. The Kala Academy site is at the Campal sand dunes where there are corrosive forces, and the foundation of the main auditorium is below sea level. “At the time he had given his services, we paid for them. So where is the question of they still having a stake?” he further stated. He questioned the foundation as to on what basis should the government seek their help. “Who are these people? Tomorrow if we appoint a consultant and we later want to change the project, we should have to go and ask them? Is there any agreement or MoU? So how can they claim they should have been consulted,” he asked.

Roadmap ahead

Estimated at Rs 56 crore, the renovation of the Kala Academy had been allowed to go ahead by the high court after the Goa government assured the bench that no portion of Kala Academy will be demolished but only repaired to preserve and up-keep the same.

The Kala Academy building encompasses the work of many masters including Charles Correa, Mario Miranda’s murals, Bolt Beranek and Newman and acoustic consultants. Architect Arminio Ribeiro of the foundation, who is hoping to collectively preserve the structures, feels that letting go of this would be a loss to all Goans.

Image credits: World Architecture Community


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