Born in 1930 in Hyderabad, Charles Correa is known as a pioneer of modern Indian architecture and urban planning, embracing the ideals of egalitarian social housing, environmental sensibility and community connection to space. An education at the University of Bombay, followed by the University of Michigan and MIT Massachusetts, saw Correa develop a desire to meld modernism with vernacular, celebrate the local and consider the “notion of the city and its importance in breeding intellectual creativity as integral to creating areas in which ideas are made and opportunity is rife”. Correa often uses local construction materials and methods, such as stone and brick, as a substitute to glass, steel or concrete, a measure that emphasises Indian vernacular architecture and the “idea of the village.” Building on this concept, the needs of the local people (or the users of the space) become central to the design – people are employed in the development, the space reflects local culture, the building responds to local needs such as weather and utilities and ultimately is moulded to encourage an equitable urban context. As architect David Adjaye comments; “ Charles Correa is a highly significant architect, globally and for India. His work is the physical manifestation of the idea of Indian nationhood, modernity and progress… He is someone who has that rare capacity to give physical form to something intangible as ‘culture’ or ‘society’ – and his work is therefore critical: aesthetically; sociologically; and culturally. Beyond the sociological impact of Correa’s work, his focus on climate responsive housing is integral to his method. Emphasis on pre-existing resources, passive energy and subtle changes to landscape underlie Correa’s design concepts, in both India and abroad. Designing during a time where air conditioners were too expensive, Charles was challenged to create form responding to this - the result was the influence of the vernacular to include the use of colour, shade, light and ventilation. Positioning buildings to avoid sun and monsoon rains, verandahs to block light, shaded passage-ways and large open spaces (ie high ceilings) to encourage wind flow are all concepts implemented in Correa’s buildings. As Correa surmised: “In this, the old architecture – especially from vernacular – has much to teach us, as it always develops a typology of fundamental sense.” Over his career, spanning 60 years, Correa has won a number of awards, including; The Padma Vibhushan, The Australian Decoration for Science and Art, IIA Gold Medal and the Aga Khan Award for Architecture; Developed low-rise high density residencies (Belapur Housing), Mahatma Gandhi Museum, Jaipur Arts and Crafts Centre and The British Council (all incorporating his ideals of social equality and environmental responsive design); and written numerous essays on his concepts and developments.
The Tube House was developed by Correa in the 1960s in response to the hot temperatures of Ahmedabad. At only 12 feet wide, the house contained no windows or doors but instead created privacy by situating walls and rooms at mezzanine levels. The roof was sloped rather dramatically to protect the inner volume of the house from the harsh sun and a small internal courtyard was covered by a pergola grid to minismise heat impact and ensure security. Vents were situated at the point of intersection on the roof – an effect that allowed hot air to rise within the space and escape from the top, whilst simultaneously setting convection currents of natural ventilation. In conjunction with environmentally responsive design, the Tube House won an award for low cost housing, alerting the architectural world that socially and environmentally conscious design was a sustainable option in the developing world.
The Kanchanjunga Apartments were designed by Correa in direct response to the culture of Mumbai, the escalating urbanisation of the city and the hot wet climatic conditions of the region. Comprising of a 32 luxury apartments at a height of 84 metres, the tower interlocks four different apartment typologies across the width of the block. Small displacements of level on every floor allow for each apartment to have a deep set verandah and large open garden, creating a buffer to the effects of both the sun and the monsoon rains. A central premise to Correa’s design, the verandah idea stemmed from the traditional Indian bungalow, whereby residents would wrap a protective layer of roofed and shaded yet open verandah around the main living area to protect the internal space from sun and heavy monsoon rains. Furthermore, the use of the verandah in the Kanchanjunga apartments meant the building could still face the Arabian Sea (also the direct line of sunlight), and catch the sea breezes, providing 24hour ventilation to the indoor spaces. This modern interpretation of a vernacular design provides the basis for many of Correa’s work, as it is used to manifest context and encompass the way people inhabit space and create a sense of place.