Charles Mark Correa (1 September 1930 – 16 June 2015) was an Indian architect, planner, activist, and theoretician. His work was one of the first manifestations of the image of post-independence India. He was celebrated by RIBA as "India's Greatest Architect" for his sensitivity to the needs of the urban poor and for his use of traditional methods and materials.
Charles Correa, was born on 1 September 1930 in Secunderabad. He began his higher studies at St. Xavier's College, Mumbai. And went on to study architecture at the University of Michigan (1949–53) where Richard Buckminster Fuller was his teacher. After which he pursued his MArch (1953–55) at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After MIT Correa returned to India to start his own practice (1958-200) where he worked till his He taught and lectured at many universities, both in India and abroad, including MIT, Harvard University, the University of London, and Cambridge University, where he was Nehru Professor.
Charles Correa had a 60 years long career in architecture and his 100+ buildings in India along with a number of projects abroad are highly celebrated.
In 1958, Charles Correa established his own professional practice in Mumbai. His first significant project was the Mahatma Gandhi Sangrahalaya (Mahatma Gandhi Memorial) at Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad (1958–1963), followed by the Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly in Bhopal (1967). In 1961-1966, he designed his first high-rise building in Mumbai, the Sonmarg apartments with a verandah running all along the peripheries of all apartments to passively cool the house. He lived there till his last day. In the National Crafts Museum in New Delhi (1975–1990), he introduced "the rooms open to the sky", his systematic use of courtyards. In the Jawahar Kala Kendra (Jawahar Arts Centre) in Jaipur (1986–1992), he made a structural homage to Jai Singh II. Later, he invited the British artist Howard Hodgkin for the outside design of the British Council in Delhi (1987–1992).
From 1970–75, Charles Correa was Chief Architect for New Bombay (Navi Mumbai), where he was strongly involved in extensive urban planning of the new city. In 1984, Charles Correa founded the Urban Design Research Institute in Bombay, dedicated to the protection of the built environment and improvement of urban communities. During the final four decades of his life, Correa has done pioneering work in urban issues and low-cost shelter in the Third World. In 1985, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi appointed him Chairman of the National Commission on Urbanization.
He was a member of the 1980, 1983, 1986, and 2001 Aga Khan Award for Architecture Steering Committees, and of the 1989 Award Master Jury. He was presented an Aga Khan Award for Architecture during the 1998 cycle as the architect of Vidhan Bhavan in Bhopal, India.
From 2005 until his 2008 resignation Correa was the Chairman of the Delhi Urban Arts Commission.
In the last leg of his practice, Charles Correa designed the new Ismaili Centre in Toronto, Canada, which shared the site with the Aga Khan Museum designed by Fumihiko Maki, and the Champalimaud Foundation Centre in Lisbon, inaugurated by the Portuguese President Aníbal Cavaco Silva on 5 October 2010.
In 2011, Correa founded Charles Correa Foundation (CCF)in Goa, India, to address the gap that exists between ideas originated by citizens and their implementation by government bodies. Therefore, CCF acts as a catalyst for architectural, urban design, planning, and community-based projects that improve the condition of human settlements in India.
It also provides scholarships, fellowships, prizes and other awards as support to students of architecture including Exchange Programmes and Academic Chairs for architecture and planning.
In 2013 Correa donated his archive to the Royal Institute of British Architect (RIBA). Correa’s gift of his archive of over 6000 drawings, photographs and models of his best-known work, such as the British Council building in Delhi and the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown in Portugal, his designs for housing and cities, including his masterplan for the township of Navi Mumbai were displayed and celebrated by the RIBA in an exhibition that ran from 14 May 2013 to 4 September 2013 at the RIBA building. The exhibition was called “Charles Correa: India’s greatest architect.”, was curated by Dr Irena Murray and designed by David Adjaye.
While RIBA took care of the physical archive, Correa with a small team of architects from his Mumbai home took care of the digitalization of his archive. Charles Correa Archive now is a digital platform available to students, researchers, institutes and architecture schools all over the world to learn from the legacy of works that Charles Correa has left behind.
A tribute and funeral
Charles Correa died on 16 June 2015 in Mumbai following a brief illness. His funeral mass was held at the Church of Our Lady of Salvation, Dadar, Mumbai. The church was originally built by the Portuguese in 1596 and was the oldest church in Mumbai, it was rebuilt or renovated several times in the past before Correa was awarded the assignment to build it afresh in 1974. Correa came up with a design that was very different from a traditional church, yet every element, every space of the Church represents specific phases in the life of Jesus Christ. The modern and contemporary church was completed in 1977. On Correa’s funeral the white shell-shaped congregational space was full of Correa’s family members, associates, contemporaries and admirers, the crowd spilt onto the churchyard and shared memories and stories about the legend.
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