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#RIP – Charles Correa, face of contemporary architecture in India, dies at 84

Charles Correa, the face of modern Indian architecture, has died at the age of 84 (Photo courtesy RIBA)

Charles Correa, who defined contemporary architecture in India and was responsible for works as diverse as the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial in Ahmedabad and the assembly of Madhya Pradesh, has died after a brief illness. He was 84.

He passed away late on Tuesday in Mumbai.

The winner of many national and international awards was known for his hold over issues pertaining to urban planning and affordable housing. He was honoured with the Padma Shri in 1972 and Padma Vibhushan, the second highest civilian honour, in 2006.

In the 1970s, he was the chief architect of Navi Mumbai, the new city that came up across the harbor from Mumbai, and was later appointed the first chairman of the National Commission on Urbanisation.

Besides working on Mahatma Gandhi Memorial at the Sabarmati Ashram and the Jawahar Kala Kendra in Jaipur, Correa also focussed on low-income housing and urban planning.

Born in Secunderabad on September 1, 1930, Correa studied at St Xavier’s College in Mumbai before going to the University of Michigan and the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Correa taught at several universities in India and abroad and was the awarded some of the highest honours in his field, including the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, the Praemium Imperiale of Japan and the Royal Gold Medal of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), which billed him as “India’s greatest architect” when it mounted an exhibition on him in 2013.

In 1984, he founded the Urban Design Research Institute in Mumbai that is dedicated to protecting the environment and improving urban communities.

Correa once expressed an interest in the way Indian cities work and in ways to improve them during an interview with The Guardian. “Our cities are among the greatest things that we have; they are part of the wealth of India. They are places of hope. The skills we need are urban skills – we never have to ask the World Bank to send us an expert because our cities already provide them,” he said.

Earlier this year, speaking at the HT for Mumbai Awards ceremony, where he won the Lifetime Achievement Award, Correa was critical of the haphazard development of the financial hub. “Market forces do not make cities, they destroy them,” he said in a message to governments and urban planners.

Among his final works was the Ismaili Centre in Toronto.

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