Charles Correa wanted to design a better Mumbai – but the city let him down

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Charles Correa wanted to design a better Mumbai – but the city let him down

He was a prophet without imprimatur in his own city. Charles Correa, who passed away late on the night of 16 June, was among the great architects of our times. His institutional buildings across the world are all iconic. Yet, Mumbai, his lifelong home, boasts just one residential tower designed by him – an irony as much as a travesty. Though the cubist Kanchanjunga is eye-catching, it’s still high-rise: a genre caustically savaged by this patron saint of low-slung architecture.

It gets worse. Correa’s real passion was the designing of cities that are easy to live, work, play – and commute – in. But his karma was Mumbai, which can check none of these boxes with a straight face. The man who described cities as “places of hope” was fated to live in a city of disappointments. It’s not just because its skyline resembles an alarming ECG. More specifically, Mumbai mindlessly sabotaged two of his masterful plans, each of which would have helped it regain its post-independence swagger as India’s showpiece.

One was his design for New Bombay across the harbour in 1964; the other his masterplan in 1996 for the textile mill-lands in the heart of what had by then been rechristened Mumbai. Ironically, he had been appointed for these visionary tasks by the very politicians who would later subvert them; one with myopic indifference, the other with unmitigated greed. []

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