R.I.P. Charles Correa (1 September 1930 – 16 June 2015)

Correa's work has singlehandedly inspired about three generation of architects

It is quite impossible to try to “summarize” the life of a man who spent more than 50 years in architecture and built something as powerful as the Gandhi Ashram on the banks of Sabarmati at the age of 28. In the wee hours of Tuesday, 16 June 2015, Charles Correa, one of the greatest architects that India ever saw, passed away at his residence in Mumbai. And as we write this, his funeral takes place at the Portuguese Church in Dadar.

 

Padma Vibhushan Charles Correa was credited for building some timeless pieces like the Kanchanjunga Apartments in Mumbai, Bharat Bhavan in Bhopal, Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Museum at the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, Jawahar Kala Kendra in Jaipur, Champalimaud Centre for The Unknown in Lisbon, City Centre (Salt Lake City, Kolkata), and the list goes on… He was a known urbanist and expressed on many occasions, a special bond with and concern for the city of Mumbai. He was also awarded the RIBA Royal Gold Medal in 1984.

All this apart, I’d like to remember Correa as a man whose work had singlehandedly inspired about three generation of architects; many still dream of achieving the kind of integrity and grit that he worked with. Having grown up in a country where mostly everything design is indefinable, one always thought that as long as Correa was there to show the way, studying architecture in this the country still had hope. Listening to his Climactic Session at the Z-Axis in March, which now I feel fortunate to have witnessed, it was clear that from the smallest of jokes or jibes to discussing urban complexities, Charles Correa was a man of few but valuable, clear-cut words.

His essay of how playing with toy trains as a child fuelled his passion for design or his concise book called A Place in the Shade is testament to the clarity with which he articulated his thoughts – 246 is hardly the number of pages one would expect of a book from a man whose prolific career helped define contemporary architecture in India. And his statement, that the country needed better clients and not just better architects, is as true today as ever.

While we grieve the ascension of a legend, it is only fair to say that “Correa, you have indeed been immortalized by the work that you did for the people of this country.” Perhaps, the lesson to take away from this is just THAT – that our work, be it timeless or mediocre, immortalizes us and therefore, it is best to make use of our time here in building things of value.

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