The prestigious ‘Annual Charles Correa Memorial Lecture’ delivered each year in Kolkata attempts to celebrate values and philosophies that has shaped the architecture of post independent India.
The Masters of Indian architecture immediately after independence had their hands full while searching for an Indian identity befitting a new born nation. Being as vast it is, with its thousands of years of history and massive diversity in culture and demography it was clear to the early group of architects searching for an Indian identity that it was necessary to integrate this diversity in their architecture rather than only be guided by the modernist movement that trained most of them. There had to be regional and local Inputs while evolving the architecture of this vast country and its various religions and states.
The theory of critical regionalism emerged during various discourses, dialectics and brainstorming that these architects engaged themselves into. Amongst the coterie of architects comprising Charles Correa, Balkrishna Doshi, Achyut Kanvinde, Romi Khosla, Raj Rewal and others around them, Correa emerged as a strong influence. Much of the goings on in architectural thinking between 1950s and 1980s influenced by intense interactions and search amongst contemporary architects culminated in an exhibition on Indian architecture entitled Vistara during the festival of India held in Britain, France, Japan and the United States between 1983 and 1986. Issues of symbolism, inclusiveness, regional cultures and knowledge were put into focus in the context of Indian architectural legacy and their interpretations. Man was put at the centre of his environment and crafts was included within the domains of architecture.
By the time Vistara was curated, Correa had already emerged as a Master architect with several milestone projects who had both regional and global impact and following. However post Vistara, Correa’s work, intellectual evolution and architectural expressions distilled into realms of the sublime and rose to an all together greater level of finesse. This period of his career marked a completely new collection of architectural gems. During his six decade long journey Correa has influenced the Indian architectural ecosystem through not only his work discourses, writings and teachings but also his magnetic personality and concern for nature, common man and equity at all levels.
The Annual Charles Correa Memorial Lecture aims to pay tribute to the Master and also acknowledge his guidance as a “Guru” to generations of architects who became his disciples knowingly or unknowingly. Correa impacted not only generations after him but also his contemporaries. The finer human centric Correa values and design philosophy that distilled from his works and engagements influenced and inspired a greater ring of admires and followers across the world. Correa was able to light the lamp of wisdom, quest and mining of the inner self in thousand of hearts.
This year we have two architects, Bibhuti Man Singh from Kathmandu Nepal and Brinda Somaya from Mumbai India, who while evolving themselves and charting their careers, were exposed to Correa and strains of Correan values and philosophy surely entered their subconscious.
Bibhuti Man Singh
Bibhuti Man Singh graduated from the West Pakistan University of Engineering and Technology in Lahore in 1972. He obtained his post-graduate training in Japan. After serving the Nepal Government for a short stint, he set up his architectural practice in 1979.
Besides, numerous buildings in Nepal of various typologies in these fifty years of engagement with Architecture, he has also done notable work in heritage promotion through design-build of National Pavilions as part of Nepal’s participation in World Expos in Germany, China and Italy. He was commended with a Plaque from the Society of Consulting Architectural and Engineering Firms.
A classicist at heart, he has been against form seeking that is detached from function and purpose. His intellectual journey has led him to find solace and validation in the esoteric pursuits of cosmology, symbolism, archetypes or other such concerns related to roots, of person, society, culture, nation or species.
Brinda Somaya is an architect and urban conservationist. Brinda studied architecture at Mumbai University, and was awarded a Master of Arts and Honorary Doctorate from Smith College in Northampton, United States. She started her firm Somaya and Kalappa Consultants (SNK) in 1978, in Mumbai, India. Over four decades she has merged architecture, conservation, and social equity in projects, ranging from institutional campuses and rehabilitation of an earthquake-torn village to the restoration of an eighteenth century Cathedral showing that progress and history need not be at odds. In 2014 the Indian Institute of Architects (IIA) awarded her the Baburao Mhatre Gold Medal for excellence in the field of architecture. In 2016 she was appointed as the Chairperson of the Board of Governors, School of Planning and Architecture, Vijayawada. In 2017 she joined the Board of the Lafarge-Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction, Zurich, Switzerland. Presently she is the A.D. White Professor-at-large at Cornell University, U.S.A. Her monograph ‘Brinda Somaya Works & Continuities’ was published in 2018.
Brinda Somaya has delivered analytical and critical talks as well as presented papers in India and abroad on her work – and other connected subjects. She has given lectures in the U.S.A, U.K., Australia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka & India and her work has been exhibited in the USA, UK & Japan. She has served as an Examiner & Jury Member in India & Abroad.
The followers and patrons of the Memorial Lecture shall eagerly await the hear both of them.
Annual Charles Correa Memorial Lecture, Kolkata 2023