Ruins, a site for recreation?

A further insight into the discourse on the situation and vision for Nossa Senhora Do Carmo, Chimbel.

Based on a talk at CCF by;
Fernando Velho, Architect 
along with
Erica De Mello, Student at Goa College of Architecture

This blog is the last in a series around the chapel of Mount Carmel, in Chimbel, a village in Goa. The context of Chimbel village can be understood from the blog ‘A Search for Commons in the Pressure of Growing Cities’ part 2 of the blog titled ‘Nossa Senhora Do Carmo’ explains the role of this Chapel in the settlement and the steps a local architect, Fernando Velho has taken, in tandem with the villagers of Chimbel to breathe new life into the space.

modil pic

Model of a design intervention overlayed with the ruins of Nossa Senhora Do Carmo
Source: Erica De Mello /  Goa College of Architecture

To stir up some imagination in the public consciousness, Fernando Velho invited Erica De Mello to present at the Charles Correa Foundation, Erica is a student of the Goa College of Architecture (GCA) who had recently proposed a design intervention in this very site. Erica’s design approach was guided by Mr. Sameep Padora who was a visiting professor at GCA, under the Charles Correa Chair. Erica’s proposal for the site was to turn it into an artists residency.

front-elevation.jpgArtistic representation of how the proposed structure would look.
Source: Erica De Mello /  Goa College of Architecture

Ruins with an Alternate Future

Erica spoke about approaching the existing structure through layers, in contrast to “follies” in English landscape, for example, the Capel Manor in England, where the designer constructed an artificial ruin, in contrast, here in Chimbel one can find an existing ruin. Erica tried to approach the structure and “to create within ruin”. Her proposal entailed:

  1. Structural stabilization of the existing ruins.
  2. Reconstruction, through a lightweight frame that gave the essence of the original space. 
  3. A public space which would have exhibition zones and facilities for the community.  
  4. Living and working spaces for the artists in residence.

iso.gifAnimation of the various design approaches, overlayed.
Source: Erica De Mello /  Goa College of Architecture

The proposed design would have various features which express reverence to the ruin while still creating conducive space for artists. 


Representations of the spaces within the proposed design
Source: Erica De Mello/  Goa College of Architecture

Discussions and Deliberations

The discussion after the talk was lively and interesting. Former Chief town planner of India Prof. Edgar Ribeiro commended the Chimbel Villagers for approaching the issue in a bottom-up approach and getting the support of the ward councillor (Pancha). 

Edgar also clarified the terminology of an ‘archaeological park’. The Town and Country Planning Office, New Delhi envisioned this zone for places where there were a large number of important national monuments protected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in a fixed radius. Mehrauli was the first such archaeological park where Prof. Nalini Thakur from School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi oversaw the entire process. In the Regional Plan 2021, Old Goa is denoted as an Archaeological park because there are 14 ASI monuments in a close radius.

13-Chimbel Commons.jpgProf. Edgar Ribeiro explaining the vision for an archaeological park.
Source: Lester Silveira / The Balcaö

Arminio Ribeiro asked the Chimbel residents about their vision for the space. The residents discussed the possibility of preservation of the structure, and the amount of development they envisioned for this space.

The villagers recalled memories of feasts and christenings which used to happen at the site long after it was abandoned. A question arose as to why the church was eventually abandoned by the villagers. 

Following the talk, a leader of the delegation of Chimbel residents, Mrs. Ana Gracias, asked Prof. Edgar Ribeiro and the CCF team if we could sit and discuss the issue in a private meeting. This meeting happened on the 29th of May. The meeting was attended by the leaders of the Mount Carmel Restoration Forum – a group formed from Chimbel residents, a priest from the Archdiocese of Goa, Edgar Ribeiro, Fernando Velho, and a few other architects. 

In the meeting, The following steps were explored in regards to the way forward for the preservation of the structure. The ground reality is that the government does not see any site as heritage unless it finds mention in one of the State drawn plans, in this case, the site must reflect in the Goa Regional Plan 2031. There could be three possible approaches to get the site demarcated here.

Approaches towards conservation 

1. As a National Protected Monument

It is extremely unlikely for this particular site to become a monument to be protected by the Central Act- ‘The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act (or AMASR Act) , 1958’. It is not of national importance and the ASI presently protect over 3650 monuments. 

2. As a State Protected Monument

There was discussion to list this site as a state protected monument and the villagers had already petitioned the Directorate of Archives and Archaeology (DAA) to take this case forward. The CCF team however feel that  in listing the site as a state protected monument, the DAA becomes another important decision maker in any proposal for re-use of the site. This means any conservation effort would not only need permission from the owners of the site (Provedoria) but any maintenance or conservation done to the monument, would be subject to restrictive measures of ‘Restoration’ put forth in the ‘The Goa Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment) Act, 2010’

3. Get the site on the list for Conservation.

The  ‘Goa (Land Development and Building Construction) Act’. in section 6B.2.C has a section titled ‘List of Buildings and sites of Historic and Aesthetic Importance in State of Goa to be notified under these regulations’

There is merit in listing the site as conservation instead of preservation because the site can be developed out of the restrictive definitions within the ‘The Goa Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment) Act, 2010’ , while still having to go through checks and balances put in place by the Conservation Study Committee of the Town and Country Planning Department, Goa.

07.jpgMeeting between Prof. Edgar, Fernando, Clergy, and Chimbel residents on 29th May 2019 at the Charles Correa Foundation.

Vision for the site

The meeting concluded with the residents and architects contemplating a vision for the site in the near future. A consensus was reached to turning the 4000 square meters (that encompass the ruins and the access to them) into a park for Chimbel Village. Structural preservation would be implemented on the ruins and the rest of the space be notified as green space in the Regional Plan for Goa 2031.

In this regard the Charles Correa Foundation has written a letter in support of this initiative to the Minister of Town and Country Planning, Goa. On the 21st of June 2018, the Minister accepted the request of the Chimbel residents, citing the Charles Correa Foundation’s letter as documentation for significance of the site. 

The Bigger Picture

Since 1984, in the state of Goa, no new structures have been listed for conservation. With the success of this initiative, the CCF team believes a precedent has been set. A successful listing and conservation of Nossa Senhora Do Carmo have illustrated that a building of heritage value deserves to be, and can be conserved through public demand. 

In the context of  Heritage sites in Goa, both ancient and relatively contemporary being threatened. And with certain elements in the State making a case for the demolition of one of the few equitable, civic buildings in the capital city of Goa, Panaji – Kala Academy, we believe, now more than ever it is important for us to be watchful and work to conserve our heritage spaces.

Do you know of a monument or site in your locality that deserves recognition? Write to us on and we can advise you on the way forward.