Read the article (courtesy of Wo’Goa magazine) in their April edition on pages 24- 27
Taking the NH 17 to South Goa.
One of my favourite designs of the Goan house is the one with the two semi-octagonal wings, like huge bay windows they surround the entrance porch. The colourful facades, the gorgeous window designs, the huge roofs under swaying palm trees, what a feast for an architect’s senses! So it was decided to go for a weekend trip to South Goa.
But then I wonder what happened to a once lovely Goan country side? Did Saruman and his evil hordes escape from the Shire and continued the devastation in the name of progress (at what price) and prosperity (for a few)? Where are these adorable Goan houses gone? Nestling under palm trees, with their broad verandahs, the inviting balcaos (no time to talk nowadays and by the way my favourite TV show starts in a minute). So less of them stand out like endangered species in a swelling sea of banality.
Is it the yearning to be modern, show off to the neighbour while copying the same characterless design?
Where is the art and ability gone to build something like the old Goan House?
Somebody asked me once, what do you think as a foreigner living here for years now, are we Indians simply not able or not educated enough to do better? Being in my age and able to look back to more than 40 years working in the architectural field, I can say it has nothing to do with India or with education or a lack of artisan abilities. Do you think the craftsman and laborers working on construction sites in the bygone times were in an intellectual way ahead of their time? What made them able to do so was the traditional skills learned and carried on from one generation to the next to build for the common men, buildings to live in and for the larger temples and palaces there was a master or a group of masters to coordinate the same.
Look around and the upcoming of the ordinary and ugly is visible all over this planet, you find it literally everywhere, it spread like a disease. The catch here is that clinging in a reactionary way on tradition, will reproduce an inbreed culture only. To make things clear I am not talking here about razing the Old for a better New World. My demand is, keep the heritage buildings, villages and towns intact and well-maintained and add to them in a sensitive manner neighbour buildings. Why not thinking of village or town as a family where you don’t kill the grandparents because you are convinced their best-before-date has expired?
Instead see what the climate and the surrounding has to offer and adopt it. Basically speaking use the best out of the traditional skills and how they managed the challenge of climate and environment. I know it is a corny phrase but there is really no need to invent the wheel again.
- Have large roof overhangs to shelter from the monsoon rains.
- Have open but shaded places instead of A/C shoeboxes.
- Lower the heights of buildings to max. 3 floors (more than half of the newly built apartment blocks aren’t occupied permanently anyways).
- Keep God given nature in mind as an advantage and not as an unnecessary hindrance, blocking the cool breeze from the sea and vice versa blocking the rain water drainage from flowing back into the sea is simply not a good design, if not to say a dangerous one.
- Reduce the sealing of soil and give trees and plants a place to exist. Everyone can experience the drop of temperature when passing the open fields between Tonca and Adarsh circle. The need for density and highrise buildings is mostly a hypothetical creation of shortsighted money orientated business. Don’t fall for it.
I am neither putting a case for an impossible “Back to Nature” nor an anachronistic repetition of traditional forms and shapes. The first one is since Rousseau coined it first, an illusion and doesn’t bring the development of men and earth an inch forward. The second one will show romantic replicas, even when they are perfectly designed and executed but still gives you the feeling of living in a theme-park and therefore gives also no gain for progress.
Something new has to come (not only in architecture) even if it is confusing or funny to look at and not at all perfect from the start. This brings me back to my trip to South Goa. See for yourself the way Pantha and Ute from Bakti Kuthir Resort in Palolem designed the beautiful airy cottages and then you have a look at the cookie-cutter-huts strewn along the beaches. Or if you want to look beyond the horizon than google for César Manrique’s work which he has done in Lanzarote, one of Canary Islands.
Heavily depending on tourism, Goa can learn enough from other examples to alter the course. A rampant sell-out of Goa ends otherwise with a “Lost Paradise”.