Dona Paula, Goa

Goa, one of the oldest trading centres along the west coast of India and for 450 years part of Portugal, is a land of rivers and hills and stunning palm-fringed beaches. Because Goa’s economy has always been traditionally land-based, the population of seven million is evenly distributed – one lives in a place because one either owns land there or is a tenant-farmer working there. Thus, Goa has no single dominant city, but a balanced polycentric system of villages and towns – the largest of which has less than 100,000 inhabitants.

This hotel, a few minutes drive from Panaji, is built on a sloping site which descends down to a beach on the Zuari river. During the process of design, the hotel began to emerge as a sort of expressionistic hill town – so the search commenced for a name which would describe it… surely there was a mythical city which the Portuguese had yearned for in vain?….an El Dorado? But alas, perhaps historians could find nothing. (Are Portuguese. less metaphysical than Spanish?) Finally a phrase surfaced: “Cidade de Goa” the original name for Panaji, Goa’s capital town. City of Goa… a marvellously evocative phrase… a city, which is at times a city abstracted, and then again, a city of virtual imagery, and finally a city of real dwellings and balconies and terraces.

The main road is up on the barren ridge of a rocky plateau. One passes beneath the entrance arch and descends down the long driveway into a lush green valley, to arrive in a plaza, surrounded by key symbols and signs which connote: CITY. Some of these images are the artifacts of a stage set, others the trompe de l’oeil of the cinema poster artist. These facades are layers, one passes through…. a highly fragmented, kaleidoscopic series of visual sensations and architectural spaces. What is real? The object? Or the image? Or the image of the image of the image? Awakening sub-conscious responses in the memory… the bitter-sweet saudade of nostalgia … like the fades of the Alfama, a sardonic art.