Nossa Senhora Do Carmo

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 
along with
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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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?’

Further Reading

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

A Search for Commons in the Pressure of Growing Cities

This blog is the first part of a trilogy about a village, its residents, and the ruins of a chapel. The Charles Correa Foundation has been actively involved in assisting the villagers in their project, and our combined efforts have recently yielded positive results. You can read about it on the news section of our website or Aliya Abreu’s article in the Goan Everyday.

As in most of urban India, Goa too is presently undergoing a transformation – large scale development projects are visible everywhere and the older rural and urban fabric is being frayed and reformed in the process. One construct that has transferred well from the past to the present is that of the commons. This is evidenced in the way planners and architects often envision cities. They allocate and provide tracts of land designated into public open spaces. Ebenezer Howard (1898 ) introduced the concept to create commons while planning built space. This may account for the quiet acceptance within select urban townships of a balance around built structures and open spaces. 

Townships and built complexes are one thing, existing villages are another. But what of the in-between? The spaces between urban and rural are fast disappearing and how do we find commons for communities as a whole? Jan Gehl (2008)  says, “Cultures and climates differ all over the world, but people are the same. They will gather in public if you give them a good place to do it.” We have to pause and consider spaces outside the built landscape or rather think about the commons for settlements and spaces in between urban and rural. 

Let us take the case of a village called Chimbel in Goa. Chimbel is a settlement situated five kilometres from Panjim, the capital of Goa, south of the Mandovi river. The original settlement of “old Chimbel” pre-dates Portuguese occupation in Goa. 

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Map showing estimated boundaries of the villages in between Old Goa and Panaji in the 18th Century.

Chimbel in the throes of development

Villages like Chimbel, Panelim, Ribandar, Santa Cruz and Merces (en route to Panjim city) became important as the residences of administrators and builders of the Portuguese capital of Panjim in the 18th century. It must be noted that the shift of the capital from Old Goa to Panjim took almost 70 years to be completed enabling the growth of these villages.

Over the next two centuries, Chimbel continued to function as a satellite of Panjim. The old village presently has around 6000 residents and the settlement area is spread over 4,20,000 square meters.


Chimbel Old Village
Source: URBZ:

In the early 1980s, the government acquired and allotted 66,000 square metres of land (named Indiranagar) on the fringe of Chimbel to settle a large number of migrants who had been called in, to work on development projects like the Mandovi bridge and infrastructure for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). 

The settlement of Indiranagar now hosts more than half of the 17,000 residents of Chimbel, in tiny dwelling units with struggling services and an absence of an open space.

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A lane in Indiranagar
Source: URBZ:

The recently completed Panjim-Old Goa expressway on the plateau, just a couple of kilometres uphill from the village, has led to a series of luxury gated colonies and expanded vehicular use. This comes from the fact that despite Goa is India’s smallest state, the coastal landscape and unique cultural identity has made it a major tourist destination for most Indians, and a retirement or second home aspiration for those who can afford it. This has led to rampant development of real estate, mostly hospitality and second homes.

This situation presently leaves the state and it’s locals in an awkward position for there are almost three ‘visitors’ to the state to every local. 

Row villas

Serenity row villas, just uphill from Chimbel village.

So, what one now sees in Chimbel is three distinct housing situations: The gated colonies, the original village and Indiranagar; marked by inequity based on social class and identity. This inequity compounds itself when it comes to open space: in Indiranagar there is no space for an open area, children play in the gullies; there are no public benches or public spaces in the old village. Yet, in some of the gated communities, each villa has its own pool!

                     Old Chimbel Grain        Indiranagar Grain       Gated Community Grain
Source: Google Earth

Triangulating the present Chimbel context and surrounding areas 

We are now presented with a context that has three settlements. Each defined by a specific social and economic background, each with a distinct grain and hard access boundaries between them. 

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Diagram showing the boundaries and inequality between the three housing situations in Chimbel.

In governance of Chimbel this complex situation is treated unidimensionally. There is a single Panchayat whose representatives are predominantly from the ‘‘old village’’ who must take into account the needs of distinctly diverse populations and habitats. Within this ‘‘unified’’ space of Chimbel the matter of the commons must be considered. Space allocation is impossible in the traditional (Howardian) imagination; especially with such heavy pressures of development. This leaves the village of Chimbel searching for a common space. In a  difficult situation like this, how and where could such a space be found?  

Stay tuned for the next two installments on Chimbel, you can get updates: either on social media or subscribe to our mailing list here.


Further Reading:

Ebenezer Howard
Howard, E. “Garden Cities of To-Morrow” Swan Sonnenschein & Co., Ltd, 1902


Jan Gehl
Gehl, J. “Cities for People” Island Press, 2010
Walljasper, J. “The Rise and Fall and Rise of Great Public Open Spaces” 

Developmental Pressures on Chimbel
IT Park
Times of India editorial on Indiranagar

URBZ Blog on Indiranagar Settlement

Cover image by Dennis FigueIredo