‘Faulty design’: Goa minister, conservation architects clash over Kala Academy renovation
Goa culture minister Govind Gaude said the Kala Academy, designed by celebrated architect Charles Correa, has a faulty design and insisted that told the foundation started by the architect to not interfere in its renovation
PANAJI: The renovation of the building of Kala Academy, a prominent cultural centre in Goa’s capital city designed by celebrated Indian architect and urban planner late Charles Correa, has led to a war of words between culture minister Govind Gaude and the Charles Correa Foundation, with the latter accusing the government of changing core design elements of the heritage building to that point that “it will no longer be the same building”.
The foundation said the academy was one of the finest examples of not just architect Charles Correa’s work, but also of renowned caricaturist Mario Miranda, whose hand-painted murals adorn the walls of the main auditorium and the work of the world’s foremost acoustic consultants Bolt Beranek and Newman, who also designed the acoustics of the United Nations permanent headquarters in New York.
Charles Correa’s daughter Nondita Correa Mehrotra, who is also director of the foundation, said the building was in need of repairs but “the lack of transparency” in what is being planned was troubling.
“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,” she said.
The minister hit back, insisting the iconic building had a ‘faulty design’ and that the foundation set up by Charles Correa was no longer a stakeholder who needed to be consulted at the time of renovation.
Built in the 1960s, the building was among the first cultural centres in the newly liberated territory of Goa and quickly emerged as a centre for art, culture and music. Its main auditorium is named after Dinanath Mangueshkar, the father of Lata Mangueshkar, who hailed from Goa.
Foundation convener Tahir Noronha said that while in the past too renovations brought about changes, this was an opportunity to restore the original.
“Already in the past, artwork has been changed. Charles had ideas to use colours which were very earthy to represent Goa’s tambdi mati (red mud). Mario Miranda Murals -- there are only seven murals of Mario Miranda in the world. Mario Miranda is no longer with us. It’s impossible to replicate them now. The auditorium is the only auditorium in India that is designed by Bolt Beranek and Newman,” Noronha said.
“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, 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,” Mehrotra said.
Gaude has told off the foundation, telling its conservation architects to not interfere in the renovation.
“We had taken the services of Charles Correa for design, for aesthetics. If Charles Correa had taken the responsibility for all the issues at the time, we wouldn’t need to repeatedly renovate it. He didn’t give attention to the maintenance point of view. The site chosen for the Kala Academy is at the Campal sand dunes, there are corrosive forces, the foundation of the main auditorium is below sea level. What kind of design is this? I can openly say that this is a faulty design. At the time he had given his services, we paid for them. So where is the question of they still having a stake?” Gaude said.
“Who are these people? So 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.
“The building represents the work of a number of masters, Charles Correa, also the work of artists, the one who has painted the murals Mario Miranda and Bolt Beranek and Newman, the acoustic consultants also the work of artists, the one who has painted the murals. This is a place where all the masters have created a masterpiece. Letting that go is something of a loss to all of us Goans and this is something we hope is going to be preserved,” architect Arminio Ribeiro of the foundation said.
The renovation of the Kala Academy, which is estimated to cost ₹56 crore, was 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”.