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Exploring the Architectural Heritage - Kala Academy, Goa

Kala Academy at Goa by Charles Correa | Photo Credit: Charles Correa Foundation

The Kala Academy, Goa by Ar. Charles Correa is a modern heritage building of great architectural & cultural importance not only in the state but also in the entire country. It is one of the renowned projects of the starchitect. Kala Academy reflects the patent design style of Correa wherein he rejects steel & glass and uses a more vernacular approach towards the design problem. Some of his renowned work in the country are Mahatma Gandhi Sanghralya at Ahmedabad, Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly at Bhopal, National Crafts Museum at New Delhi, Jawaharlal Kala Kendra at Jaipur, Bharat Bhavan at Bhopal, etc.

Even all those who weren’t familiar with Charles Correa’s work, learned about Kala Academy at Goa when it flooded the news in early 2019. That is when the state government announced its demolition. Luckily for us, many architects ran a petition and later the state settled on the renovation of the structure instead of total demolition. The petition read, “the Kala Academy has been a host to Konkani tiatrs, drama, film screenings and music competitions across all genres and languages; there are exhibitions and book fairs in the foyer and the art gallery. Many local architectural conferences are also held here. It’s a frequently-used venue for a diverse set of programs. And it is truly accessible — several number of citizens come to visit daily.

Kala Academy at Goa by Charles Correa | Photo Credit: Arkistudents

The Kala Academy, established in 1969, is one of the modern heritage buildings in Goa standing in the premises of old Goan houses and is always titled as a people-friendly architecture in various articles. The architect even made sure not to alter the way of life of people but rather strengthen it by the design. This institutional building is located on the gentle slopes along the banks of river Mandovi at Campal, Panaji, Goa. The 6.3 acres of the site is designed to interact with the users, catering to their needs & bringing together a vast diversity of culture & art forms. The site development is horizontal with a maximum of three-story rise with an equitable number of green pockets. The low laying masses also ensure unobstructed wind flow while the green pockets cool the winds & break substantial impacts if any. Janice Viegas, in her article about the demolition of the structure titled ‘Architecture for humans’, elaborated on the beauty of Charles Correas’ approach to the design of Kala Academy expressing that the structure is a human-friendly scale and proportions & a non-restrictive design approach to accommodate users from different walks of life. The campus in itself is a riverfront development property with an exotic view of the Reis Magos Fort, its lighthouse & the now-demolished jetty which was symbolic of the Goan architecture. The Kala Academy is not designed to stand out but to pastiche in local architecture like one of their old ones. The corridors are designed with murals & paints, reminiscent of old Goan streets painted by Bhiwandker, a renowned artist. If that’s not considered a modern heritage, we as architects surely did not set the standards right for everyone.

Corridors depicting Goan essence at Kala Academy | Photo Credit: Arkistudents

Corridors depicting Goan essence at Kala Academy | Photo Credit:

Corridors depicting Goan essence at Kala Academy | Photo Credit: Charles Correa Foundation

Wind flow on site plan of Kala Academy | Photo Credit: Sahil Tanveer

On the site plan scale, Correa made a combination of heavy masses broken down by courtyards & open spaces which is an ideal vernacular style for a humid, heavy rainfall region. The open spaces projecting pergolas were later covered in creepers to create happening spaces. The key plan is a work of orthogonal grids, within which the volumes interact. The spaces provided are auditoriums, exhibition halls, conference rooms, lounges cafeterias, black boxes, rehearsal rooms, office spaces & open-air theatres. The areas are divided to convenience flow of users. The public places are placed on the ground floor working to the private spaces i.e., office spaces on the top floor. This stratification allows an efficient flow of users without colliding any two un-related activities. Charles Correa, in his projects, tends to follow a pattern of sustainable &/or vernacular architecture. Right from the use of local building materials to the imitation of local architectural elements to tackle extreme climate. Such elements are observed in Kala Academy too on various stages of design.

The identity of Kala Academy is derived from its accommodation of various cultural forms. The Dinanath Mangeshkar auditorium has hosted a lot of Indian & foreign maestros in classical music within its impressively planned acoustics. It has even given a boost to the careers of numerous local artists. It also showcases the works of renowned people like Mario Miranda whose caricatures are seen painted on various balconies in the auditorium. Each year, before the starting of renovation, the Kala Academy hosted the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) & the Entertainment Society of Goa (ESG) in the inox where the screenings & performances take place. The space sets the stage for wandering, exploring, introspecting, resting & pensive talents or activities & bestows the potential to reach unexpected platforms.

The petition was able to save the Kala Academy from demolition, however, when the renovation work commenced on April 5th, 2021, the Charles Correa Foundation stated that they were neither consulted nor involved in the design or process of the renovation. Architect Charles Correa, for his eclectic work in the design of Kala Academy, Goa was awarded the Gomant Vibhushan in 2011 which is one of the highest honors of Goa & now his only public building in the state is being ripped off of his essence. How fair is it to renovate the heritage when we can simply appreciate its story & beauty by the method of restoration?

The Charles Correa Foundation’s statement regarding the Kala Academy renovations-

© 2021 by Ardent Space for Architectural research and Practice

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