You are on page 1of 9

Gerard da Cunha is a well known name in modern Indian architecture.

He prefers working with natural stone and his unique projects are seen all over the country. He received the Commendation Award in Rural Architecture, Designer of the Year Award and the Prime Minister's National Award for Excellence in Urban Planning and Design. Da Cunha's Goa based architectural firm Architects Autonomous specializes in ecofriendly, site specific architecture. There has been a subtle shift in da Cunha's raison d'etre. He has been putting something back, first with his book Houses of Goa where he took on the mantle of publisher by documenting with text and photographs, the unique architecture of Goa. After the book, he built a museum of laterite stone, unlike any museum anywhere in the world, but a structure which would be at home in New York or any other cosmopolitan cities, as it is in the rural depths of Torda in the village of Salvador do Mundo. The museum is to house artifacts and antique pieces, to preserve Goan architecture and design. So how did Gerard da Cunha's path cross that of Takeo Kamiya? He was gifted Kamiya's book in Japanese and was so impressed with it that he contacted the author and asked if he could translate it into English and publish it. Kamiya agreed and da Cunha bought the rights from the Japanese publishers. The book was translated by Geetha Parmeshwaran in Bangalore, edited by architect Annabel Lopez, in New Delhi, printed by Pragati in Hyderabad. Says da Cunha, "Vernacular architecture is our starting point; it is similar to the flora and fauna of the region. It springs from the ground like wild flowers, perfect in its use of material. It embodies the local lifestyle and its process of evolution is completely unconscious." About the book he says, "It is a wonderful guide for tourists, for the common man both in India and abroad, and for the student of architecture who has access to textbooks that document only Greco-Roman, European and American architecture. "I wish I had a book like this when I was a student of architecture. It is uncanny. This was what I had wanted to do: travel the length and breadth of the country and document our architectural heritage. I never had the time to do it and then I come across this book, researched and put together by Takeo Kamiya, a Japanese architect." Gerard da Cunha, 57, is now identified more with preserving Goas heritage, hes been renowned equally for being one of Indias first few green architects, one who believes in utilising locally available material in harmony with its ecosystem

Gerard da Cunha Photos: The Goan IF YOURE ever in Goa, drive to a place called Torda. Here you will come across a strange, bending brick building shaped like a ship. Its the way to discover the heart and soul of Goa and also the creator of this ship-like structure Gerard da Cunha. The building is a museum called Houses of Goa that pays homage to the way Goa is built. The three storeys of old doors and pillars is this architect-conservators way of telling vital stories of how heritage informs identity and why its important to keep that alive. Even if da Cunha, 57, is now identified more with preserving Goas heritage, hes been renowned equally for being one of Indias first few green architects, one who believes in utilising locally available material in harmony with its ecosystem. His design for the Odissi gurukul Nrityagram in Bengaluru, the initiative of dancer Protima Gauri Bedi, is iconic. Built in stark stone found in the area, it is very different from traditional Goan architecture that is his mainstay. This adaptability got da Cunha an award for rural architecture. As did his design for a Jindal steel township in Karnataka called Vidyanagar that won the Prime Ministers Award for Excellence in Urban Planning and Design. Five years ago, da Cunha was hired to restore Goas oldest fort the Reis Magos. He shares with Revati Laul the challenges he faced during its restoration. EDITED EXCERPTS FROM AN INTERVIEW How did you get involved in restoring the Reis Magos Fort in Goa? I got involved through the sponsor, a 75-year-old English lady called Helen Hamlyn, who

runs the Helen Hamlyn Trust (HHT). She has been doing restoration for the past 25 years. The late Mario Miranda, who was the convener of Indian National Trust for Art and Culture Heritage (INTACH), had asked her to think about restoring this fort. I knew her well and had modified her house in Goa, so she asked me to do the restoration. Who owned this fort? And what was the basic idea behind restoring it? Its owned by the Goa government, and its listed under the Goa Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act. Its the oldest fort in Goa. The Act is very old and conservative. You cant really do anything under it, except some whitewashing. The monument is looked at as a sacred cow. You cant put in a toilet or water into it. My job was to restore this fort and make it a cultural centre. There was a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the government, the INTACH and the HHT following which we started work. As soon as we did , we got into trouble with the local Shiv Sena who accused us of destroying the fort and filed a police complaint. We had several cases against us. There was the possibility of just lying low and waiting for the controversy to blow over, another was to give in to their demands. We didnt do either, we just fought. We said, If you want to stop the restoration, come and stop us physically, were waiting for you. They were a little surprised! So they said, We didnt threaten you, and we carried on. Every day wed quietly get into the fort and lock ourselves in, work till the dead of night and then get out. They didnt know what to do.

Museum Houses of Goa a Indo Portuguese Architecture


"Houses of Goa", a unique museum by reputed architect Gerard da Cunha, encapsulates for posterity the phenomenal outcome of the amalgamation of eastern and western architectural styles.

We in Goa have a strange but novel history and that is, we are part of the first sustained encounter between the East and the West.Though we have a long and rich history from times immemorial and much before the arrival of the portuguese,this encounter produced a culture and architecture which is unique.This museum showcases the houses which were the prime expression of the goan identity. The museum is built as a traffic island in Torda,Salvador-do-Mundo,Goa.Strangely enough it is in the shape of a triangle and resembles a ship.Viewed from the outside it is a mystery,but as you begin your visit,it slowly unfolds its charms.

WHAT is so special of a Goan house? "When the Portuguese colonized Goa," architect Gerald da Cunha says, "they brought in their own architectural designs and lifestyle to influence the already strong culture and architecture that prevailed here. As a result of the amalgamation, an entirely new thing emerged. What you see in Goan houses, you don't see in Portugal, or elsewhere in the world." The highly creative architect claims that it is "our own Goan style. Goans, who were people who were converted, were looking for a new identity, and thus embarked on the experiment in architecture, to produce something unique and unseen anywhere in the world". When asked about how he has conceived the museum concept, he says that;being an architect it is my responsibility to document the architecture as a local, who has thrived in this place"picturesque Salvador do Mundo village in Bardez. So he created a ship-like structure to house all the goodness in Goan architecture, which would otherwise be lost.It is very important for us to document it, to enjoy it. At the first level, he depicts Goa in the context of the world, and then goes on to display the wealth of Goan architecture on the first floor. On the second floor, delves into the details of Goan architecture: the doors, windows, railings, construction material, furniture, etc. And on the top he shows the "final amalgamation". And the whole story is being unwound here with a slide show every evening. Despite being located away from the Panjim-Mapusa highway, nearly 1000 people have already visited the place so far. The bulk of the visitors have been students of architecture, nearly 300 of them have been from outside Goa, drawn by the fame that has gathered around Gerard by virtue of his phenomenal success as an exponent of natural architecture as well as the impressive designs he has produced for various institutions including townships. He says that it is a mixed bag of visitors otherwise, some big personalities visiting occasionally, like the American Ambassador did recently along with his family.

Like a modern-day Noah setting out with his special arch with a specimen of every Goan tradition, Gerald da Cunha takes you on an eventful voyage, showing you "Goa in the

context of the world, the wealth of Goan architecture and the details of various elements" that make Goan houses so special. A painstaking collection of doors, windows, a rare hat stand, old French doors from a house in Margao built in 1917, old tiles from late nineteenth century, old china mosaic patterns of different houses, how mud walls are made, how shells are recovered from the river, a glass tile, the dressed laterite, 16th and 17th century tiles imported from Europe, old terracotta tiles, religious pictures, altars, statues, etc. Aboard the "Houses of Goa", the ambience is enchanting, enjoyable. There is soft music backing up Gerard's detailed description of each item, as only someone who is so deeply engrossed in things Goan can do so. On the walls hang pictures of imposing, important buildings in the world on one panel and beside is another panel with equally important Goan monuments, showing when they were built, so that one can compare what was being built while the Se Cathedral was being built in Goa somewhere else in the world. Five-hundred-year-old pictures of Goa collected from various sources worldwide, rare postcards of Goa dating back to 1900, giving an exclusive picture of what Goa and its cities looked like a century ago. There are maps, architectural designs and plans of some very old houses like Mario Mirandas, with a bit of its history and location of each house. Having finished seeing all that's on the wall, around the round pillars, you approach the computer systems where you can click on to the documentation of Goa's history right from the day the Portuguese landed on the Anjediva island. The history of Goa from the prehistoric times, the Bhoja empire, the ancient Rashtrakutas, is also found. Moreover, there is an album of large panels giving all the pictures showing the colour, flooring, doors and windows, old railings, etc of a typical Goan house. Rare pictures of the first things in Goa like the first telephone The impressive collection is consistently burgeoning with people being gracious enough to loan their rare heirlooms and Gerard hoping that more people would follow the example to enhance the exclusive ambience of Goas unique museum Houses of Goa.

Climb the winding steps to the theatre upstairs, to see rare ancient lamps and a machila, and with a seating arrange for about 100 people. Here Gerard conducts a slide show presentation, with an adaptable screen, taking you on an architectural tour right to the earliest mud house. If the house possesses a fairy-tale look within, a view outside is still more enchanting. The beautiful foliage, in which sing all sorts of lovely birds, and the three houses in natural architecture that Gerard has build virtually in the midst of nowhere, deep in a pristine valley. He has been collecting the things for several years. It is going to grow.The germ of the idea is 5- or 6-year-old. I decided that I will have a building to house this collection, since I had this piece of land, which is ideal. I made in an the design of traffic island. Architecturally, he would call it a 'most modern of modern buildings'. There is nothing traditional about its architecture But it is nice sometimes to display traditional things in a modern building," he says. The shape of ship emerged, because the site was like that. Now for people it looks like a ship, from somewhere else it appears like a big bird, from another angle on the hill it looks like a rocket about to take off. "My chance as an architect to do an interesting building." "Goa is a land of colour and spice, and the Goan house is very special." Gerard's landmark museum provides a ringside view of it. GUEST COTTAGES These round structures, inspired by the yurts of Tibet and Ladakh, have housed some of the greatest maestros of dance and music, who have come to perform at Vasantahabba. Designed by Gerard da Cunha. Built in 1990.

SERVICE BLOCK Built like a reverse 2, this structure is the heart of the village. The entire community eats together and it is from the service block that our daily sustenance appears (as if by magic!) Designed by Gerard da Cunha.

Related Interests