Charles Correa in conversation with RIBA President Angela Brady
Charles Correa is an influential force in India as an architect and planner, with a worldwide reputation for designing modern buildings sympathetic to their site, context and inhabitants.
He was born in 1930 in Secunderabad, India, then part of the British Empire. After the University of Bombay, he went on to study in the US at the University of Michigan (1949–53) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1953–55). Following his return to India in 1958 he set up his own private practice in Mumbai, a city that would be the focus of many of his projects, such as his masterplan for Navi Mumbai (1964 - ) and Parel Mills (1996 - ).
In 1958 he began work on designing his first major project, the Gandhi Smarak Sangrahalaya, a memorial museum to Mahatma Gandhi. It combined traditional materials and modern construction techniques to create open exhibition and circulation spaces that still exert a spiritual force on visitors today.
Individual prototypes and large-scale schemes within an urban context demonstrate Correa's ability to approach problems caused by urbanisation and growing populations with sympathetic housing solutions. His Tube House in Ahmedabad (1961-2) was a competition-winning design to provide low-cost housing with considerations for the local climate and drew influence from local architecture. Further innovative housing projects followed this, including PREVI in Peru (1969-73) and Belapur in Navi Mumbai (1970-83).
Underlying Correa's practice is the understanding and importance of cosmic and religious symbolism. A route across the length of the building he designed for British Council in New Delhi (1987-92) links together courtyards that express the cosmic beliefs of three major cultures, those of Hinduism, Islam and Europe. The Jawahar Kala Kendra (1986-92) in Jaipur uses the form of the Indian mandala of the nine planets to bring physical order to the cultural centre's diverse programme of functions.
In the later part of his career, his accomplishments were recognised through a variety of awards including the Royal Gold Medal from the RIBA (1984) and the Indian Institute of Architects Gold Medal (1987).
Although Correa has primarily worked in India, his oeuvre has extended to international shores. His MIT Brain & Cognitive Sciences Complex (2000-05) in Boston in the US brought together separate institutions onto one site to facilitate cooperation and scientific exchange.
His most recent large project, the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown (2007-10), took his work to the historic waterfront of Lisbon.
In 2013 he donated his archive to the RIBA, where his unique gift has been catalogued and made available to the public for research purposes.
To celebrate this, the RIBA has devoted an entire season of events and exhibitions to Charles Correa's achievements and the stories from modern India.