Charles Correa, an urban planner with a vision

  • Manoj R Nair, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Jun 18, 2015 00:44 IST

Charles Correa, who passed away on Tuesday night in Mumbai, was one of India’s greatest contemporary architects; but he was more than just an architect who left his legacy in great buildings and projects such as the Kala Academy, Goa, Gandhi Samarak Sangrahalaya, Gujarat, and Navi Mumbai, the satellite city across Mumbai’s harbour.

Correa was often critical about contemporary urban planning in the country.

That concern was seen when he addressed the audience who had gathered at Mumbai’s Four Seasons Hotel on January 9, 2015, to watch him receive the HT for Mumbai’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Correa said he was not happy with the way cities were being planned. “Market forces do not make cities, they destroy them,” he had said.

He was invested in architecture, said Sarita Vijayan who often featured Correa in Indian Architect and Builder, the architecture magazine she edited.

Correa did not give many public buildings to Mumbai, but he drew up the vision of Navi Mumbai in the sixties, and designed the city’s first high-rise residential building – Kanchanjunga. “Kanchanjunga is still rated among the top buildings in the city. He put the city on the architectural map of the world,” said Vijayan.

In the 1980s, Correa headed the national commission on urbanisation and, in the 1960s, he, along with civil engineer Shirish Patel and others, authored the plan to decongest Mumbai by constructing a satellite town.

His architectural legacy encompassed a wide range of work – from public buildings such as Pune’s Inter-University Centre for Astrophysics and Jaipur’s Jawahar Kala Kendra, luxury apartments such as Kanchanjunga, places of worship (Portuguese Church), and a housing for low-income families in Navi Mumbai.

He was, according to reports, not very pleased with the appearance of Navi Mumbai when it took shape in the 1980s. Correa was also not very happy with the government’s plans for the redevelopment of mill lands.

Architect Pankaj Joshi, who heads the Urban Design Research Institute, which was founded by Correa, said, “He was saddened by the way the government took his advice [on mill lands].”

Correa also designed the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown, a biomedical research facility in Lisbon, Portugal.

The facility was recently in the news when it was reported that the Rajasthan government signed an MoU with the Champalimaud Foundation to set up a cancer institute in Jaipur in October 2014, a few months after Lalit Modi’s wife Minal was treated at the Lisbon centre.

Correa was the lead designer of the Brain and Cognitive Sciences Complex at the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, his alma mater, in the US.

Born in 1930 in Secunderabad, he studied at St Xavier’s College before moving for architectural studies to the University of Michigan and MIT. Correa’s funeral service will be held at 11am on Thursday at the Our Lady of Salvation Church, Dadar.

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