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
The CCF team talks about heritage in Panaji, and CCF’s 2014 Heritage Listing Project.
As Goa’s capital, the city of Panaji draws tourists for attractions that are uniquely its own: its heritage precincts and structures. As observed over recent decades, however, unregulated developments within the heritage areas fail to respect the context. These precincts and structures lose their heritage value when new developments overpower the visual fabric of heritage neighbourhoods.
There is a clear need for conservation of the precincts. According to the Archaeological Survey of India, “conservation” means “the processes through which material, design and integrity of the monument are safeguarded in terms of its archaeological and architectural value, its historical significance and its cultural or intangible associations.”
The Goa (Regulation of Land Development and Building Construction) Act 2008, passed by the Legislative Assembly of Goa, mandated the grading of listed buildings, precincts or conservation zones in the Goa, initiated by the Conservation Committee. It was decided that it would be mandatory to indicate a grade for every listed building or listed precinct or conservation zone.
A need for a notified heritage listing of structures and precincts in Goa had been recognised.
In 2014, CCF conducted a documented study on Heritage Listing in Panaji. The listing and grading project was commissioned by the Department of Town and Country Planning, Government of Goa. The purpose of the documentation of heritage buildings in Panaji was to notify structures of heritage value, thus producing a reference for protection of heritage buildings in Panaji.
The study identified, mapped, listed and graded heritage structures based on a survey conducted to note the historic and architectural significance of a structure along with its contribution to a heritage streetscape. The heritage areas include: Sao Tome, Fontainhas, Mala, Portais, CBD (Central Business District), Altinho, Campal and Ribandar.
The survey conducted was based on detailed inventory-making of each building with various parameters. The information gathered on heritage structures include observing the access, ownership of the property, usage, style and architectural features. It also involved examining the materials used and making an overall assessment of the condition, which would help to understand the threat to the building. With a team of project consultants, the structures were then graded based on their Historic, Architectural, Cultural and Streetscape value.
Structures which have high value under all the above criteria are listed as Grade I. Similarly, structures having values in lesser criteria are listed as Grade II, III and IV accordingly. Based on the grade, the activity of protection for the building is recommended by the Goa Land Development Regulations 2010.
Based on the research and documentation, CCF created a set of maps and guidelines to document important heritage structures in the city.
In total, around 900 buildings were documented as part of the study. With the increasing awareness of the significance of conservation in recent years, the heritage list plays a crucial role in framing guidelines for upcoming developments in heritage precincts in Goa.
Heritage listing is an important tool to indicate way-forward steps for conservation of heritage structures in a city. Are the heritage structures in your city or district being conserved? If not, are they on the notified conservation list? What can we, as citizens, do to ensure that significant-but-forgotten heritage structures get notified? Comment below with your ideas!
A forum for citizens to understand and discuss the city.
“In this dependence on maps as some sort of higher reality, project planners and urban designers assume they can create a promenade simply by mapping one in where they want it, then having it built. But a promenade needs promenaders.”
-Jacobs, J. ‘The Life and Death of Great American Cities’ (1961)
Throughout our architectural education and our professional life we as architects live and strive to make space better. We toil to design buildings, spaces and systems that people should use in a certain way to improve their quality of life. This top-down approach has led to many city-centric designs that are effective on paper but often fail in the eyes of the public. A part of the problem is that the design community has fallen into a rut of “the people should…” instead of trying to understand what it is that the people actually do.
Good City is an experiment through dialogue; in the city, with citizens, and stakeholders. It aims to undertake participatory exercises with citizens and bridge the gap between designers, government and citizens. The forum may serve as a platform to mediate between development and conservation, public projects and private interest, all in the vision of a better city for us all.
Good City Meet 1 – Bookworm Library, Mala, Panaji
The first meeting brought together people of various backgrounds—a pharmacist, an artist, designers, architects and a policy strategist. Held in Bookworm library on a Sunday, the 5th of May 2019, the meet provided a platform for participants to vocally express what the city meant to them, and what this group can do as a collective to better understand the city. Short-term and long-term goals were envisioned, one of which is representing ideas on a ‘good’ city through visual media: photography, videography, drawings and writing.
Good City Meet 2 – Charles Correa Foundation, Fontainhas, Panaji
The second meet was held at the Charles Correa Foundation, on a Friday, the 10th of May 2019. Participants discussed the Foundation’s photoblog titled, ‘Late-Night Stroll, Anyone? Assessing Safety in Panaji’s Streets’. In the photoblog, the CCF team approached the dimension of safety in Panaji’s streets through the concepts written by urbanist Jane Jacobs in her famous book ‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities’. This prompted the discussion of urban theories postulated by Jane Jacobs, and their relevance based on citizens’ observations in Panaji and Mapusa.
A key takeaway was the need for engagement with diverse sections of the public in order to understand a holistic perception of good urban space.
Good City Event – Jardim, Garcia D’Orta, Panaji
The third meet took the form of a social experiment, based on a suggestion to talk to citizens in the Municipal Garden. On 11th May, a children’s event prompted a large turnout which was ideal for a mood-mapping exercise with children and their parents. Using a colour-coded system ranging from Green (very positive response to a space) to Pink (very negative response to a place), participants of the exercise responded to spaces in the vicinity by placing Post-Its on a map of the area.
Good City Event – Jardim, Garcia D’Orta, Panaji
With at least 40 children and 20 adults participating in the exercise, a significant amount of data was gathered, including the ages of the participants and their reasons for liking or disliking the spaces. The next step is to repeat the exercise with larger sections of people and analyse the assimilated data.
What do you think makes a ‘good’ city? Comment below or write to us of your thoughts, ideas and experiences of similar initiatives!
The Good City Citizens Forum happens weekly in Goa. It is publicized in most newspapers; you can join our discourse in person or follow our progress online, either on social media or subscribe to our mailing list here.
Participatory exercise with children in U.S.A. https://www.dailycamera.com/2019/04/29/growing-up-boulder-collaborates-with-700-elementary-students-on-city-map/
While the 2017 documentary presented the stark reality of manual scavengers in Tamil Nadu, the subsequent discussion, with the lawyer and human rights activist Albertina Almeida, and the architect Tallulah D’Silva, provided insight on way-forward action in Goa.
Have you ever wondered what happens after you flush your toilet? In urban India, we rely on the government to contain, manage and, if we are overly optimistic, treat our sewerage. But we (should) know better: we depend on, and exploit by complicity, a section of society to literally clean up our mess. The documentary ‘Kakkoos’, directed by activist Divya Bharathi, unforgivingly holds up a mirror to our actions.
The 2013 ‘Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation’ Act has defined ‘manual scavenger’ as:
“a person engaged or employed, at the commencement of this Act or at any time thereafter, by an individual or local authority or an agency or a contractor, for manually cleaning, carrying, disposing of, or otherwise handling in any manner, human excreta in an insanitary latrine or in an open drain or pit into which the human excreta from the insanitary latrines is disposed of, or on a railway track or in such other spaces or premises, as the Central Government of a State Government may notify, before the excreta fully decomposes in such manner as may be prescribed…”
Manual scavenging has been officially banned since 1993, with the ban being reinforced with the 2013 Act. But the 109-minute documentary, which focusses on manual scavenging in Tamil Nadu, sheds light on a grim reality by detailing the plight of manual scavengers and their families in a casteist society.
Still from the film: Improvement of the economic status of manual scavengers is prevented by a deep-rooted casteist prejudice. (credits: Divya Bharathi)
According to the ENVIS Centre on Hygiene, Sanitation, Sewage Treatment Systems and Technology, the Central Government counts 53,000 manual scavengers in India. The film argues otherwise: due to open defecation, even street garbage collectors face the humiliating task of collecting excreta almost every day. Since they are provided gloves, they are not labelled ‘manual scavengers’ and thus cannot be protected by the law.
Daily-wage labourers employed for cleaning railway tracks, septic tanks, manholes and small-town open sewers also face the same prejudice. The blatant exploitation of labourers is bigger than a casteist problem; it is a socio-economic issue where the poor, usually the women and the aged of marginalised sections of society, are forced into manual scavenging labour.
Still from the film: Though they clean the sewers of the city, manual scavengers are forced to live in slums without access to clean sanitation. (credits: Divya Bharathi)
The film inspired viewers to begin an animated discussion on important takeaways and the steps going forward. Led by Albertina Almeida and Tallulah D’Silva, various ideas were discussed for individuals and the community to take up.
Tallulah, an architect who is passionate about sustainable solutions, noted the significance of zero-waste dry toilets and suggested a lifestyle change with their use. She urged the audience to rethink the default flushing system, which mixes excreta with water thus creating the need for septic tanks, which inherently depend on manual scavenging. An important takeaway was the changes that the architecture community can catalyse by practice, such as a DIY dry toilet kit, which uses sand and sunlight to break down excreta. CCF will collaborate with Tallulah to organise a workshop on making dry toilets in the foreseeable future.
Albertina, a lawyer and human rights activist, emphasised the need for a statewide manual scavenger survey with self-registration booths in Goa to understand the magnitude of the issue. As a society, to bring the issue to the forefront of political concern—which forces politicians to bank on the interests of the marginalised society—is the way forward.
As individuals, what steps should we take to address and solve the problem? Comment below to let us know!
Those interested in the film may view it here on YouTube.
Read more about manual scavenging here:
- Manifesto by Safai Karmachari Andolan https://thelogicalindian.com/awareness/safai-karmachari-manifesto/
- Urban shit: where does it all go? https://www.downtoearth.org.in/coverage/waste/urban-shit-53422
- Manual scavenging: A stinking legacy of suffocation and stigma https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/waste/manual-scavenging-a-stinking-legacy-of-suffocation-and-stigma-61586
- Why technology alone won’t solve India’s manual scavenging problem https://scroll.in/article/905669/why-technology-alone-wont-solve-indias-manual-scavenging-problem
In a photoblog, the CCF team observes footpaths in Panaji from Jane Jacobs’ perspective.
“Think of a city and what comes to mind? Its streets. If a city’s streets look interesting, the city looks interesting. If they look dull, the city looks dull.”
– Jane Jacobs, ‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities’
As an activist for better cities, Jane Jacobs was very vocal about the failure of planning policy by ground-reality measures. Her 1961 book ‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities’ was avant-garde in its city planning principles, of which safety of the city was key. According to the urbanist, people feel a city is safe or unsafe depending on how they perceive its streets and footpaths.
What does safety of footpaths entail? In the chapter ‘The uses of Sidewalks: Safety’, Jane Jacobs explains that peace on the streets is maintained by a “network of voluntary controls and standards among the people themselves, and enforced by the people themselves.” She breaks down the success of good city neighbourhoods into three main qualities:
- A clear demarcation between private space and public space;
- There must be eyes upon the street;
- Footpaths must have users on them fairly continuously, both to add the number of effective eyes on the street and to induce the people in buildings along the street to watch them.
“People’s love of watching, activity and other people is constantly evident in cities everywhere.”
– Jane Jacobs, ‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities’
The qualities seem like easy goals, but it is not simple to achieve them. As Jacobs puts it simply, “You can’t make people use streets they have no reason to use. You can’t make people watch streets they do not want to watch.”
The CCF team observed Panaji’s footpaths during various times (office-closing and shop-closing hours, for instance) on a weekday evening to understand the dimension of safety in the city.
1. D.B.Road, near Children’s Park
Despite having good lighting and footpath conditions, and vehicular activity throughout the night, the primary street lacks concrete reasons for using or watching it, thus lacking the checks and inhibitions exerted by eye-policed city streets.
2. Governador Pestana Road, near Panaji Market
The commercial street sees late-night activity, and consequent surveillance, on account of the local food vendors.
3. M.G. Road
The mixed-use street draws people late into, and throughout, the night due to the presence of eateries, ice-cream parlours and a 24-hour pharmacy.
4. 18th June Road
The well-lit commercial street sees constant activity until late into the night. Shopkeepers are an unconscious source of vigilance, and shop activity on the footpaths—people buying, eating and talking— attracts more people.
5. Dr. Dada Vaidya Road, near the Mahalakshmi temple
The well-lit mixed-use street sees no activity on its footpaths beyond retail-shop closing hours.
6. Ramachandra Naik Road, Altinho
Despite being well-lit and completely accessible to public use, the interior residential street is closed to public view and is blank of built-in eyes.
7. D.B.Road, near Captain of Ports
The well-lit primary street sees activity, and consequent surveillance, until late into the night due to the casino commerce.
8. 31st January Road
The mixed-use street in the old Latin quarter of the city sees activity, and consequent surveillance, at night due to the presence of restaurants and the local bar.
9. Nanu Tarkar Pednekar Road, Mala
The residential street lacks sufficient lighting and sees no usual evening activity that attracts eyes.
10. Patto, near the KTC bus stand
Despite sufficient lighting and footpath conditions, the street in the Patto Central Business District does not see activity on its footpaths after the closure of the bus stand and lacks built-in eyes.
As observed, the problem of insecurity cannot be solved by spreading people out into suburb-like neighbourhoods that require watchman patrol, or by good lighting alone. The observations back what Jacobs stresses on: a well-lit footpath in a dense, mixed-use neighbourhood, having late-night people-attracting ‘activity points’—eateries, bars, movie theatres, et al.—and unconsciously surveyed by ‘built-in eyes’ (such as residences above the commercial fronts) is a safe footpath!
Jane Jacobs (May 4, 1916 – April 25, 2006) was an urbanist and activist whose writings championed a fresh, community-based approach to city building. She had no formal training as a planner, and yet her 1961 treatise, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, introduced ground-breaking ideas about how cities function, evolve and fail. The impact of Jane Jacobs’s observation, activism, and writing has led to a ‘planning blueprint’ for generations of architects, planners, politicians and activists to practice.
Jacobs saw cities as integrated systems that had their own logic and dynamism which would change over time according to how they were used. With an eye for detail, she wrote eloquently about sidewalks, parks, retail design and self-organization. She promoted higher density in cities, short blocks, local economies and mixed uses. Jacobs helped derail the car-centered approach to urban planning in both New York and Toronto, invigorating neighborhood activism by helping stop the expansion of expressways and roads. She lived in Greenwich Village for decades, then moved to Toronto in 1968 where she continued her work and writing on urbanism, economies and social issues until her death in April 2006.
A firm believer in the importance of local residents having input on how their neighborhoods develop, Jacobs encouraged people to familiarize themselves with the places where they live, work, and play. (Source: The Center for the Living City)
The CCF team wishes to thank Tahir Noronha for his contribution to this blog.