Charles Correa: Artistic Urbanization

Kunal Vakharia

Charles Correa was born in Hyderabad, India on September 1, 1930. He attended St. Xavier's College in Bombay from 1946 to 1948 where he finished the equivalent of an undergraduate degree in architecture. With some of his initial projects in school and through local architectural competitions in Bombay, he was recognized and awarded many local awards that allowed him to join in practice with some of the emerging firms in Bombay. After some time, he decided to continue with his education by learning architecture at the University of Michigan and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He returned to Bombay to establish a private practice in 1958. His practice thrived as India had gained their independence only ten years earlier. This allowed Mr. Correa to help establish principles in urbanization as well as develop a structure for cities and local communities that still exists in India to this day.

Through his work, Charles Correa addressed not only architecture and the aesthetics of the buildings, but he also addressed the low-income individuals and communities that may dwell in them. Douglas Kelbaugh, CAUP Dean and Professor of Achitecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan stated, "In addition to his many architectural works built all on the Indian subcontinent and all over the world, Correa has been one of the pioneers in developing frugal, culturally-rooted shelter in the developing world." The ideas that Charles Correa had were such that all his buildings and plans used material that was local and used it in a manner that allowed the local masons, brick-makers, and workers use the best of their talents. This combination produced some of the most exquisite high-rise buildings in Bombay, which served not only a functional purpose of housing many low-income individuals but also created a skyline that did not devalue the city as a whole. The jagged edges and curved tops to some of the large buildings that Mr. Correa produced used the western ingenuity and the eastern tradition to bring out the best in the land.

But using materials wisely was not the only consideration Mr. Correa had when planning his buildings. Along with this, he maintained cultural and living areas within the buildings as well as maintaining garden areas and sanctuaries within the building's core. This allowed for a living space that was not meant for mass housing, but for a lifestyle that many in India have dreamt of. In 1970 to 1975, Charles Correa and two colleagues had ideas for Navi Mumbai, a city located adjacent to Bombay (Mumbai). With his prior experience having built low-income areas such as Previ Housing Project in Peru, Mr. Correa embarked on a project to create Navi Mumbai as its chief architect. This was a project in which Mr. Correa allowed for massive growth in urbanization as the city was initially looking to help nearly two million people.

With so much knowledge and understanding of the culture and atmosphere surrounding his buildings, Mr. Correa continued to venture into India. He not only built urban areas that were aesthetically pleasing and very utilitarian, he produced some magnificent monuments. In the 1960s, he completed the Mahatma Gandhi memorial at the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahemdabad as well as designing several museums.

With so much success, Mr. Correa was awarded an Honorary doctorate by the University of Michigan; in 1984 he received the Gold Medal of the Royal Institute of British Architects; in 1987 he was awarded the Gold Medal of the Indian Institute of Architecture; in 1990 he received the Gold Medal of the International Union of Architects; in 1994 he was awarded the Premium Imperiale from Japan and in 1998 he received the Aga Khan Award for Architecture. The Aga Khan Award was significant because it recognized Mr. Correa's influence on architecture and was awarded to him for his contributions to art in the Muslim world.

Even with so many awards, Mr. Correa found the time and necessity for establishing an Urban Design Research Institute in Bombay that focused on protecting the environment, especially in the city, as well as focusing on low-cost improvements to high-rises that would add to the aesthetic skyline as well as provide a living space for the populated city.

Along with his contributions to art in the urban world, Mr. Correa found the same artistic influences when looking at functional governmental buildings. Recently, he finished the Bhopal State Assembly building, which was failed as a work of art because of its resemblance to Centre Pompidou in Paris but its functionality in the Indian governmental climate. As Brian Carter, University of Michigan professor and chair of the CAUP architecture program said, "[Correa's designs] respond to the climate of India. His vocabulary is of today, yet derived from the physical setting and many traditional values of Indian society." This is what makes Charles Correa a masterful artist and architect!


ArchNet: Islamic Architecture Community,

Official Charles Correa Homepage,

Interview with Jay Shah. January 23, 2009. Architect at Scarano Architects and Ambani Architects.

University of Michigan,