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Obituary: Charles Correa (1930 – 2015)

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‘India’s greatest architect’ Charles Correa has died, aged 84

He is credited with shaping the architecture of post-independence India having designed some of the country’s most significant buildings. These included the Gandhi memorial in Gujarat (1958–1963), which Correa designed when he was just 28 years old, and the Madhya Pradesh Assembly building (1996).

In the 1970s, when the new city of Navi Mumbai was being built across the harbour from the old town, Correa was appointed as its chief architect responsible for planning. The city would become home to more than 2 million people.

He was recognised for his work across the world, and in 1984 the RIBA dubbed him ‘India’s greatest architect’ handing Correa the RIBA Royal Gold Medal. He also received the UIA Gold Medal, the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, and Japan’s Praemium Imperiale.

Born in the Indian city of Secunderabad, Correa studied at St Xavier’s College in Mumbai before travelling to the USA to study architecture at the University of Michigan and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

He returned to India in 1958 and set up his own practice in Mumbai and for more than four decades Correa undertook pioneering work on urban planning and affordable housing.

Mahatma Gandhi Memorial at the Sabarmati Ashram, Ahmedabad (1958–1963)

Mahatma Gandhi Memorial at the Sabarmati Ashram, Ahmedabad (1958–1963)

All his work, including the National Crafts Museum in New Delhi, the Jawahar Kala Kendra in Jaipur, MIT’s Brain and Cognitive Sciences Centre in Boston, and the recent Champalimad Centre for the Unknown in Lisbon, place a particular focus on resources, energy and climate.

In 1985, the then Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi appointed Correa as the chairman of the national commission on urbanisation – a result of his successful work planning Navi Mumbai.

His influence in India was recognised when the government awarded him the Padma Shri in 1972, and India’s second highest civilian honour, the Padma Vibhushan in 2006.

The Indian architect went on to establish Mumbai’s Urban Design Research Institute in 1984 with the aim of protecting the environment and improving urban communities.

Most recently, in 2013, the RIBA held a retrospective of his work at its Portland Place HQ, after Correa gifted his archive of more than 6,000 drawings to the institute. The exhibition entitled ‘Charles Correa – India’s Greatest Architect’ highlighted his influence on modern urban Indian architecture.

The prime minister of India, Narendha Modi paid tribute to Correa. He tweeted: ‘Charles Correa’s architectural marvels are widely cherished, reflecting his brilliance, innovative zeal and wonderful aesthetic sense’.

An incredible man and an inspiration to me

Paying tribute to Correa and his legacy, Hanif Kara of engineers AKTII, said: ‘An incredible man and an inspiration to me and many of my generation and will be for years to come.’

Correa died last night (16 June) in Mumbai following a brief illness.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Charles Correa was an insightful and masterly architect. His visit to the Caribbean School of Architecture in 2001 still resonates. It was and will always be an honour to have met him.

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  • Charles Correa will be missed very much for his ideas, his work and his integrity to the people a round him.

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