Charles Correa was a visionary architect, designer, teacher, planner, perfectionist and above all a philosopher. We indeed have lost one of the greatest urban architectural talents to have graced this earth. A true master in all respects. He was accorded both the 'Padma Shri' in 1972 and the second highest civilian award the 'Padma Vibhushan' in 2006 amongst many other national and international awards. His works truly exhibited his prowess from designing a small housing unit in Tube housing Ahmedabad to the urban plan of Navi Mumbai.
Charles Correa had a definite aura which was evident by the fact that he could influence and inspire over three generations of urban professionals and will continue to do so even in the future. The scale of his understanding of urban issues and the urban realm was unique and well ahead of its time. He was a leading thinker to theorize the complicated process of urbanisation, city planning and urban form of Indian cities and had produced many seminal essays and articles on the problems faced by cities such as Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata etc. … "Cities are places of hope and engines of economic life"…… "The best housing in cities is not done by architects, but by generation of people and economic and social force"…. He consciously brought nuances of urban issues to the foreground while serving on many commissions including as the chairman of the 'National Commission on Urbanization' the first ever to take a holistic overview tackling issues emanating from the urbanization of India.
It was his foresight to help critical thinking about a city and to build its capacities to respond to the changing urban scenario that led to the formation of the Urban Design Research Institute (UDRI) in 1984. UDRI is now a full scale organization committed to research on facets of urban design and planning of Mumbai.
In 1985, when Charles Correa was advising the then BMRDA (now MMRDA), government needed to formulate a policy for the city's mills which were in deep financial crisis - one that would allow the mills to change from industrial land-use to housing and commercial. For this Charles Correa proposed a simple 3-part formula: one-third of the land be handed over to the city for much needed public infrastructure (schools, hospitals, playing fields, etc); one-third be made available to MHADA and to the co-operatives for affordable housing; and the remaining one- third (along with the FSI on the land) could be sold by the mills at market prices. Accordingly Development Control Regulation no 58 came in force making the 'One-Third' formula law. However subversion and distorted implementation by the government and private developers/builders completely destroyed the very urban fabric it had set out to uplift. This great error of the government and a singular missed opportunity in Mumbai has been a cause of great regret for Mumbaikars and Charles Correa.
All urban professionals and UDRI believe that the best tribute to Charles Correa would be that the government now actively implements the mill lands concept of 'one-thirds' on at least the remaining mill lands and other infrastructure and affordable housing issues that Charles Correa had proposed. His works and ideas will continue through his archives at UDRI Mumbai, Charles Correa Foundation Panjim and the body of urban professionals taught and inspired by him.
~ Pankaj Joshi is the executive director UDRI, Mumbai (which was founded by Charles Correa) and executive committee member, Charles Correa Foundation, Panaji