April 10, 2021 4:20:24 pm
After Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant laid the foundation stone for the renovation of Kala Academy on April 5, there are questions being raised on the validity of the Rs 50-crore project.
A prominent centre for promoting art and culture in Goa, Kala Academy that hosted numerous festivals and concerts since it opened in 1970, is in need of maintenance since there is serious wear and tear over the years. From 2019, conversations on its renovations have been doing the rounds. Designed by renowned architect Charles Correa, this building under the Ministry of Art and Culture, Goa, has had various private and government agencies give recommendations for renovation.
Architect Nondita Correa Mehrotra, director, Charles Correa Foundation (CCF) said, “We are concerned for the building, and would help in any way with the restoration. In January 2020, we got IIT Madras to come in and give a professional opinion at our expense. At that time, the state didn’t have any money to even pay for that.”
In a statement that CCF released on April 5, it said, “CCF recommended that structural repair and waterproofing be done, especially to the amphitheatre… It was determined that this repair work would cost a fraction of what now has been announced as the budget ?50 crores. Therefore, it would be in the public interest to know what additional work is being proposed? What exactly is being done to the building that is going to cost 50 crores?”
On April 5, Rohan Khaunte, the MLA representing Porvorim constituency tweeted: “Charles Correa Foundation says only 10 crores required for #KalaAcademy renovations while #GoaGOvt budgets 55 crore! Why’s it that everything this Govt touches reek of #corruption?”
In defense of the renovation, Art and Culture Minister Govind Gaude said, “We have been studying the building for the last one-and-half years. Our consultants, Goa Engineering College, Goa State Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (GSIDC) with a Mumbai consultancy firm, and the PWD have given us reports. The renovation and structural strengthening are being done based on their recommendations. People who have vested interest in the building are spreading rumours. Also, the question of public discussion comes into place only if we are demolishing entirely. Here, we value the sentiments of people and are only making structural renovations to take care of beams and columns and other interior issues. We will not change the façade in any way. If people want to know about the money that will be spent, our department comes under RTI, they can question us.”
Confident of completing the project in 10 to 11 months, Gaude added that once it’s done Kala Academy will be back in business, hosting events and art and culture programmes. “In the original plan there was an idea to have mini halls, because the auditorium is booked 365 days. But that’s not part of this project, but will be taken care of when the government decides on that.”
The Kala Academy is a well-established public space, with an open plan that allows people to move from the courtyard to the foyer to the amphitheatre and the canteen without any obstructions of walls or doors. Goa-based Lina Vincent, curator and art historian, says, “The news of the renovation has been a concern. Kala Academy should be considered as one of the landmarks in the cultural history of Goa and it continues to be so. I’ve hosted shows in the auditorium and outside spaces, and have had impromptu meetings there. It’s a beautiful blend of indoor and outdoor spaces. Whoever is responsible for the renovations should understand that you simply cannot erase something and build something new. Every material culture that every community builds has its own space and importance in the story of the time. And it’s a good time to question how much more concrete should we insert into a space. In Goa, the real estate boom and rubble from demolition are covering hill tops and filling up mangroves. We shouldn’t think of increasing energy consumption in a space.”
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