30th June 2015

Lucy shared experience of working for Charles Correa

Tributes have poured in for ‘hugely significant architect’ Charles Correa who died yesterday, aged 84

‘I did my year out in Charles Correa’s office 1988. I had wanted to travel and experience India not as a tourist but by living and working there. It was unforgettable. Both intimate and inspiring. I was the only foreigner, but not the only student.‘I worked in both the Bombay and Bangalore offices. The practice was small – we were about 15 people in Bombay and no more than 5 in Bangalore where the office was located inside Charles’ private house. This was a simple courtyard dwelling with openings in white painted walls, no doors, red concrete floor, traditional and contemporary art works on the wall. In the late 80s Bangalore was beginning to grow and Charles had identified opportunities for master-planning new areas of the city – but it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. The Bombay office, by contrast, was in a city-centre crumbling office block where I was blasted by A/C and taken out in a vespa and side car to experience the city. I loved it.

‘Charles was frequently away in Europe and the US: the life of an architectural superstar giving lectures and attending awards ceremonies. His influence on design was maintained by telex, fax and erratic phone; everyone deferred to him, in an old-fashioned courteous way; never any raised voices; always quiet. I worked on the Institute of Astrophysics in Pune – making a block model out of polystyrene; hand-drawing floor plans in pencil for residential developments; elevation studies for the Indian Permanent Mission to the UN in New York; LIC headquarters building in Mauritius; the British Council in New Delhi. The designs were inspired by Indian culture and responded to the hot humid Indian climate: simple geometric forms which created dynamic patterns of light and shade; airy structures without doors and windows which allowed natural ventilation; robust materials and the strong earth tones which looked equally good in the baking sun or when drenched by the monsoon.

‘I travelled every weekend and holiday and managed to visit Charles Correa’s seminal buildings: the Ghandi Ashram in Ahmedabad, the Handloom Pavillion in New Delhi, the Bhavat Bhavan in Bhopal and the Jawahar Kala Kendra in Jaipur; always regretted not being able to get a room at Cidade de Goa.

‘I owed my internship not to my University (Charles had been visiting Professor at Cambridge in 1985-6) but to the father of a college friend who happened to be RIBA Secretary Patrick Harrison. Charles Correa had been honoured with a gold medal by the RIBA in 1984. His gift of drawings to the RIBA Library is wonderful.

‘Charles Correa’s unexpected death has brought all my vivid memories back.’

’Lucy Mori, business development director, Edward Williams Architects

Other architects featured in the article included David Adjaye, Angela Brady, Stephen Hodder and Oluremi Ajose-Adeogun