A fortnight ago, contemplating the sad state of Mapusa town, this column suggested that Mapusa’s woes were, in addition to the apparent neglect of their duties by the town’s officials, also a result of a lack of entrepreneurial imagination. The suggestion was that if older buildings are being pulled down to erect the multistoried monstrosities that are entirely out of sync with the rest of the town, it is because the entrepreneurs in the town (and the State at large) are entirely lacking in imagination to see the possibilities present in the older styles of Goan architecture. This week, this column will try to buttress that earlier argument by presenting a couple of cases to the contrary, where ‘heritage’ has been produced to enhance business prospects.
The first case struck me a couple of years ago as I was crossing the footbridge over the Patto creek toward the Rua do Ourem. Somewhere toward the left of my field of vision I caught sight of this multistoried building that looked like it had been built in the mid-1900s. I was convinced though, that that building had not existed a couple of years ago. On closer inspection it turned out that I was right. The building, an extension to the Panjim Inn, on one of the edges of Fontainhas, was in fact a new construction. The façade of this building had been constructed to be in harmony with the general style of the buildings in Fontainhas. The building, which is a ground-plus-two structure, soars above the buildings around it, and yet for reasons of maintaining the line of the street façade, and articulating its height within the architectural idiom of the neighbourhood suggests to the viewer that it has always been there.
A similar experiment, with not as spectacular results has been tried by the hotel Salida
In earlier columns I have argued that the opposition to ‘development’ that one sees in
Highlighting these constructions would beg the question of what exactly constitutes Goan architecture. This is no easy matter to get into, let alone discuss within the brief confines of a newspaper column. However by returning to the two examples that were cited earlier in this column we can make a brief start. This architecture is influenced to a large degree by European (more properly classical) traditions. (Upto this point the Salida experiment gets it right). However this European influence is not simply a cut-and-paste job. It meets existing west coast architectural traditions and is articulated within this idiom. Take for example the beautiful examples of modernist Art-deco architecture in Panjim that are articulated within the traditional format of the Goan architecture.
What is called for then, is a certain amount of creativity and sensitivity to the surrounding built-forms when building newer buildings. In the case of both the Panjim Inn extension and the Salida del Sol, it can be safely argued that heritage has augmented earnings rather than depleted possibilities. Rather than tear down the facades of earlier buildings, could it not be possible to maintain the street-side façade, and incorporate the shell of the older building into the new construction? This has been done with great success in other parts of the world.
How does one encourage the conservation of existing built forms while allowing for continued developmental work (that in any case seems unstoppable)? One way to do this would be to award those entrepreneurs, like the owners of Panjim Inn, who either put up new buildings that actively engage with
(First published in the Gomantak Times, 21 July 2010)