I knew Charles Correa was not well, but I never thought he would pass away so soon, so suddenly. I have lost a family member, a friend, a colleague, and an energetic advisor. We knew each other for 60 years in several capacities and grew together, even though we followed different paths. Our concerns remained the same: the city, the people, and the quality of life — urbanization as well as sustainability.
During the early days of the Cept University, Charles would come often to Ahmedabad. In fact, he wanted us to have a school of planning in Khandala, but I opted to do it in Ahmedabad.
I still remember how he called me one day and told me that I was to be the best man at his wedding. That was 55 years ago. I also remember that he would call me from Mumbai and play the song "Those Were The Days My Friend," credited to Gene Raskin. He played this each time my wife and I visited him in Mumbai. Even in recent years, he called us to celebrate his 70th birthday in Mumbai, and then his 80th birthday in Goa. We cut the cake together. Only a few months ago, my wife and I visited him in Mumbai. And last week, I had called him and found he was unwell. I promised to visit him in August in Goa.
Recently, when I met him he showed me his new project plans — one in Portugal and one in Canada. I was overwhelmed by what he was doing.
Charles came to Ahmedabad in 1958 to design Cama Hotel in Khanpur. A textile magnate, Kasturbhai Lalbhai, commissioned him to create the Gandhi Ashram. The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation asked him to do the Navrangpura bus station. He also planned some private houses, many of which have been demolished now.
In fact, Achyut Kanvinde who designed the ATIRA building, Charles, and I were all searching for an Indian identity and Gandhian philosophy in our works. For me, Correa's Gandhi Smarak Sanghralay museum was the simplest and clearest statement that an architect can make. In that work he addressed issues related to climate, lifestyle, and architectural space, using available materials. I can say that Charles was important to this country and to the architecture world and his work should be studied and preserved.
(As told to Paul John)