Charles Correa Foundation raise concerns over Kala Academy renovations

The Charles Correa Foundation (CCF) organised a discussion with citizens and the press conference on 14 May 2022 in which Nondita Correa Mehrotra (Director), Arminio Ribeiro (Trustee) and Tahir Noronha (Convener) addressed concerns over the Kala Academy renovation.

CCF pointed out that over the last 40 years Kala Academy has had many problems and that there has never been appropriate repair of the building. All past renovations ignored the structural issues and focussed on cosmetics – painting the building and disguising the damage. CCF is hopeful that this repair will be holistic and comprehensive as a significant amount of public funds is being spent on it. CCF gave the example of waterproofing, which was unscientifically applied twice in 1996 and 2004, without removing the previous layers. Such treatment has led to severe overloading of the structure and accordingly many of the structural problems that were reported in 2019 were from this primary issue. The methodology for structural repair proposed in the contractor’s report is satisfactory. These repairs concluded in April 2022. Now architecture work of finishes, installation of equipment, etc., will commence. However, given the lack of transparency and information we have gleaned from various inside sources, there are several concerns over the interior renovation and the auditorium design.

CCF recalled the wording of the Hon. High Court, that “no portion of Kala Academy will be demolished but only repaired to preserve and up-keep the same”. This means that the project is one of repair and renovation and must follow the three principles of conservation:

  • PRESERVATION of what is irreparable and needs to be preserved as is.
    (eg. Mario Miranda’s artwork in the auditorium is one of the only 7 murals that he has done all around the world).
  • REPAIR for what has been damaged and bringing it back to its original quality.
    (eg. The removal of the waterproofing layers in the Amphitheatre).
  • UPGRADATION if there is a justified technical need.
    (eg. The AC systems of the auditorium in Kala Academy have been outdated and in a very bad condition hence it would be a justified need to bring in new systems).

Various sources have informed CCF that changes are being made in the finishes of the building. These architectural changes are unjustified. When the building was built, the materials and painting of the murals were designed so that the building was clearly in the public realm, the citizen’s space, with simple flooring and a bright, airy feel as one walked from Campal down to the river. Informants have indicated that flooring will change from the original Shahbad and white China mosaic to darker stones and flowered patterned tiles which will make the lobby spaces dark, dingy and uninviting, and change one of the key appeals of Kala Academy. 

The acoustics of the indoor auditorium was originally designed by Bolt Beranek and Newman — the finest in the field, whose portfolio included symphony halls and parliaments, from San Francisco to Tel Aviv to Melbourne. Their consultancy was pro bono on Correa’s request. Robert Newman realised the reverberation time required to best appreciate Western classical music and Indian classical music was different, so the Deenanath Mangeshkar Auditorium was designed to be acoustically live, with small adjustments to the reflective curtains and balconies that could be opened and closed to create a flexible acoustic experience for live performances and film. 

Under the umbrella of up-gradation in 2004, the acoustics were tampered with (when Kala Academy was renovated at a cost of ₹24 crores in 4 months for the International Film Festival of India), the ceiling was replaced with flat panels, and the curtains in the balcony removed. Charles Correa raised concerns at that time, but he was ignored by the State Government. Sources inform us that a new acoustic design has been proposed and artist Mario Miranda’s murals may not be spared. Such major changes threaten to erase the design essence of Kala Academy.

In architectural conservation projects, especially the renovation of 20th century buildings, the norm is to consult the original designer, to understand the different layers of the project and have access to archival drawings. For example, recently CCF was an integral part of a consortium of architects and engineers developing a management plan for the renovation of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Stadium in Ahmedabad, a concrete structure designed by Charles Correa and Mahendra Raj in the 1960s. CCF was brought on board to share records, opinion and ensure that the proposals are in tune with the original design. Here Goa is losing out on an opportunity to retain a building which has been internationally respected and acclaimed.

After CCF received information from within the Kala Academy and PWD, they called a press conference on 14 May 2022, and stated that the State Government must be transparent and inform the Public of the restoration and the changes being made to the architectural finishes. It is the Public that must be informed, as the work is being done using Public funds. This could very well be the last opportunity to understand the extent of restoration, question it and do it correctly before it is all lost. 

You can watch the press meet below:

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