Correa’s design: More than just brick and mortar

Sabarmati Ashram is a remarkable building demonstrating the essence of architecture in the Indian context — open and simple, yet expandable, adjustable and humane.

By: Express News Service | Ahmedabad | Updated: June 19, 2015 5:10 am

Charles Correa worked in Gujarat mostly as a young architect in the mid 1950s  and the 60s.  Among several buildings, he designed three private residences — the Parekh House, the Ramkrishna Harivallabhdas house, home for former CM Dilip Parikh — and also tube housing for the low income groups, none of which exists anymore.  He also designed Vadaj and Navrangpura bus stations, but only the latter stands.

Correa was a regular visitor to Ahmedabad — the last being to CEPT University in 2014 to speak at Kurula Varkey Design Forum. His contemporaries in the city are renowned architects Balkrishna Doshi and Hasmukh Patel.

SABARMATI ASHRAM MUSEUM AND MEMORIAL- Built : 1963

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Charles Correa was an admirer of Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier and his philosophy, yet he was conscious of Mahatma Gandhi, his ideals and the purpose of frugality, says his contemporary and well known Ahmedabad-based architect Balkrishna Doshi. Sabarmati Ashram is a remarkable building demonstrating the essence of architecture in the Indian context — open and simple, yet expandable, adjustable and humane.

Sabarmati Ashram was the first ashram that Mahatma Gandhi started in Ahmedabad and where he lived from 1917 to 1930. Post-independence, the Ashram was converted into a memorial designed by Correa. Inaugurated in 1963 by the then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, the building having louvered windows, reflects Gandhi’s simplicity with a rural touch. Officials said that the placement of buildings, constructed in random directions, are similar to houses found in villages.

Correa, while designing the Ashram, left immense space for future expansion. Correa was particular about repairs works in Ashram too.

Doshi says, “Recently, he was upset with the way the ashram was being maintained. He felt that it needed a better upkeep and if there were adding or modifying it, then he should be consulted”.

Tridip Suhrud, director of the Gandhi Ashram Preservation and Memorial Trust, said, “The ashram deeply mourns the death of one of India’s modern masters. Chales Correa’s insights into the mind of Mahatma Gandhi are evident in this open, inviting building”.

CAMA HOTEL- Built: 1969

Correa came to Ahmedabad for work when well-known textile baron and philanthropist the late Kasturbhai Lalbhai and hotelier the late Rustom Cama invited GM Bhuta Associates to plan the hotel. Correa was a partner in this firm.
Eventually, Correa ended up working on the hotel independently when he separated from Bhuta to launch his own firm. It was the first time that a building had cross ventilation. It is located on the Sabarmati river bank.

Navrangpura/Vadaj bus terminals- Built: 1962

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The Navrangpura bus station still exists though in a rundown condition, but Vadaj bus terminus has been renovated. The Navrangpura bus terminus has a driveway on its both sides, and its open design make it different from other bus stations. There is only a bus stop on the ground floor and offices on the first floor of the two-storey building.

SARDAR PATEL STADIUM, Navrangpura- Built: 1960

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Host to several international cricket matches and swearing-in ceremonies for Narendra Modi as the state’s chief minister, this stadium is owned by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation. The stadium at Navarangpura, , with a capacity of 50,000 spectators , is built on an 80,000 sq yard land given by the erstwhile State of Bombay to the Cricket Club of Ahmedabad. Then city mayor Chinubhai Chimanlal had hired Charles Correa for the project.

ADMINISTRATION BUILDING, ANAND- Built: 1955

The administrative building in Anand served as the office of the district collector till 2011. Even as a new administrative building has been constructed, some departments such as the social service branch and the prohibition wing function from the old building designed by Correa. The lower two floors have administrative offices, while the top floor has apartments for University guests. The building is known for its ventilation and storage space in the walls. It has an east-west orientation keeping in mind the sun.

DILIP PARIKH’S HOUSE-Built: 1968

The house was located on CG Road, a prominent business district of Ahmedabad, and pulled down for a commercial building. “I lived in that house for 40 years, and it was very difficult giving it up,” says Parikh who had himself “convinced” Correa to design it in 1968.

“I sold it in 2006 because the intense commercial activity around it and the traffic made it difficult to live there,” he says adding that he spent only Rs 1.5 lakh in building it.

Correa designed his house in the typical exposed brick style keeping the three main seasons — summer, monsoon and winter — in mind. “I feel really proud having lived in a home built by Correa,” says Parikh.

(Inputs from Lakshmi Ajay, Tanvir Siddiqui, Satish Jha, Aditi Raja and Leena Misra)

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