Do the ruins of an 18th-century chapel and convent feature in the aspirations of a village, under pressure from the growing city?
Based on a talk at CCF by;
Fernando Velho, Architect
Erica De Mello, Student at Goa College of Architecture
In the previous blog ‘A Search for Commons in the Pressure of Growing Cities’ – the problems and pressures on the Goan village of Chimbel were illustrated. Within that context, there arose a need for a public space that could serve as a commons for the village.
Amidst the fight for a better quality of life for the people of Chimbel lies the ruins of the Chapel of Nossa Senhora do Carmo – a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Carmel. The site has been abandoned since the 1950s, but citizens recall an annual festival that continued to be celebrated, among the ruins, up until the 1980s.
The site is incredibly important not just historically, but also culturally, because it was one of the first convents run and led by clergy who were native Goans. The building is a stunning example of a specific style of architecture known as the Goan Mannerist style, a very late interpretation of Renaissance architecture, influenced by Portuguese naval architecture and executed by local artisans.
The original owners of the site were a group known as the Tertiary Carmelites. They were a local Goan religious order who occupied the convent till 1835. After the expulsion of the religious orders from Goa in 1835, the property was seized from the Tertiary Carmelites and handed over to the Santa Casa da Misericórdia, the precursor of today’s Provedoria, (a semi-government institute for public assistance). The convent was then re-purposed as a home for destitute women and girls. In the 1930’s, Goa’s first mental health hospital was also set up at the site.
View of the nave of the chapel from outside.
Source: Fernando Velho
The ruins cover an area of approximately 2,500 square meters and occupy a site of over 8.6 acres, the site is full of natural vegetation including many old large trees.
Model of the ruins of Nossa Senhora Do Carmo
Source: Erica De Mello / Goa College of Architecture
Fernando Velho and Dr. Sidh Mendiratta, supported by Fundação Oriente and the Goa College of Architecture (GCA) studied the ruins, prepared detailed existing and reconstructed drawings. The report of this study and the drawings are available at the CCF, Fundação Oriente, and GCA Libraries.
The impact of Fernando and his colleagues’ efforts has been highly inspirational, a reporter named Paul Fernandes took up the cause of the chapel and has written many articles in the news. The Goa Heritage Action Group & other independent platforms joined in a social media campaign to raise awareness around this site. These efforts have collectively led to some Chimbel residents banding together to make a collective, known as the Mount Carmel Restoration Forum.
The site has been pinned on google maps, however, there is a wall around the perimeter and people cannot visit it without permission from the Provedoria. Nonetheless, interested people may view the site and leave favorable reviews.
Drone image of Indiranagar Chimbel, the density of the settlement can be observed and inadequate open space, compared to the population is noticed.
Source: Dennis Figueiredo, URBZ
Fernando highlighted some of the developmental pressures on Chimbel and he argues that:
“In the village of Chimbel you will struggle to find a single public bench for people to sit on”
Chimbel village needs an equitable public space, one where children from Indiranagar can come and play with children from the old village, a space without discrimination. If not for us then at least for the next generation. But such a space cannot be superimposed on the residents, as Jane Jacobs (1961) states: “Parks are not automatically anything” it is only when people accept public space that it becomes truly useful.
Therefore in the case of Chimbel, can this space be one of importance? As illustrated in the previous blog ‘A Search for Commons in the Pressure of Growing Cities’ Chimbel is a heavily divided village, It needs a public space, and that space should be one that is inclusive to residents from both the Old Village and Indiranagar, one with a history of public use, and one with heritage value? Can that space be Nossa Senhora Do Carmo?
Fernando Velho addressing the audience.
Source: Lester Silveira/ The Balcaö
The Charles Correa Foundation has also come on board to provide mentorship and technical guidance to the Chimbel residents. The Foundation has significant resources on heritage grading and conservation. The Foundation is also bringing in experts like Prof. Edgar Ribeiro who understand both the legislation and a sensitive way to take this project further. This will be ideated in the next blog titled ‘Ruins, a site for recreation?’
Paul Fernandes Articles on N.S. Do Carmo
State Department of Archives and Archaeology takes notice of the ruin:
Article on the public forum in the Goan Everyday Newspaper:
CCF’s Project on Heritage Listing
Prof. Edgar Ribeiro’s talk on development in Heritage wards
Part 1 of this blog