Charles Correa’s Ahmedabad Cricket Stadium aka the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Stadium. A win for any lover of concrete, brutalist architecture and a wonderful place to see an early example of the work of an architect described by RIBA as ‘India’s Greatest’.

Sardar Patel Municipal Cricket Stadium Charles Corea Indian Architect

In the world’s most populous democracy, India, the most popular sport by a long, long way, is cricket. It’s described as an ‘Indian game invented by the English” and is played everywhere. On any scrap of level ground, cricket will be played, children dreaming of the fame and success of being one of the “Men in Blue”, a member of the national team. So a cricket ground is of immense importance, its function almost religious and a commission to design one a signal honour.

Ahmedabad Cricket Stadium Charles Correa

“There is something about looking up and seeing light – I think the tilt of your head awakens some primordial instinct. Perhaps it was the fear of Jove hurling down thunderballs”  Charles Correa

When Zurich based Swiss-Italian architect, Carlo Fumarola found himself in India, armed ‘with a simple Canon Powershot G11’ he grabbed the moment to take these photos of Charles Corea’s iconic stadium. Carlo’s photos are like a technicolour Post-it Note reminding us to check out Correa’s wonderful creativity. To marvel at how he translated his love of traditional Indian design and craft. His way of ensuring that his buildings reflected his respect for both old and new ideas over a career spanning sixty years.

Ahmedabad Cricket Stadium Charles Correa

We asked him what most struck him about the design and impact of the stadium;

‘I am fascinated by raw exposed concrete and I have always admired bare, visible structures often built by engineers with a strong affinity to architecture, Pier Luigi Nervi, Frei Otto to name a few. Today the stadium simply would not have been built, we will no longer have an opportunity to see a stadium where the interior and exterior work seamlessly together, that time has passed. Now design is governed by so many other factors’
‘When I first saw the cricket stadium I was amazed by how Correa had interpreted all the functional needs such as the stairs and stands. Its shape is perfectly balanced. One of the greatest difficulties for an architect is to design a structure with repetitive elements that somehow becomes whole, a single imaginative entity.’  
Charles-Corea-cricket-stadium-architecture-India A

Do you have any thoughts about how the experience is of watching the nation’s most-loved sport in comparison with the experience we have when we go to a modern-day stadium?

‘Sports complex architecture is designed to enhance the fan experience and if it’s successful, manages to add to the cheering of the fans by concentrating their attention on the game by virtue of stadium design. The spatial qualities, as well as acoustics, play a major role in providing this unique experience. Architects strive to achieve this whilst factoring in the consequences of embedding systems such as water, heating, air-conditioning and electricity, overarching everything is considering the impact on the architectural design work’.
‘Some soccer stadiums are renowned for providing breathtaking sporting experiences. Great examples are Stadio San Siro Milan, Estadio Azteca and Camp Nou Barcelona. When a large stadium is filled to the rafters it can take on the appearance of a massive wall of humans. There’s a great German word  ‘Hexenkessel’ which actually means a witches’ cauldron, it’s what every architect wants to achieve when designing a sports stadium. Think the Herzog de Meuron Arenas in Basel and Monaco or the Braga Municipal Stadium by E. Souto de Moura.’
Charles Corea Indian Architect Ahmedabad India Cricket Stadium

Charles Correa was born into a Roman Catholic family in India. He studied architecture at the University of Michigan and completed his Masters at MIT. His teacher, Buckminster Fuller. Correa returned to India to open his own practice after working briefly with B.V. Doshi, completing the Ahmedabad Cricket Stadium in 1960. He once again returned to American academia in 1962 to accept a professorship at MIT.  A renowned architect and urban planner, it is not by chance that he came to be considered the father of modern Indian, post-Independence architecture.

Recognition beyond India

Wider recognition came with honours from at home and abroad. His legacy of hundreds of projects includes the Gandhi Memorial Museum, innovative low-cost ‘tube’ housing, Jawahar Kala Kendra, the British Council building in Dehli and a return to his alma mater MIT to design the Brain and Cognitive Science Complex. In New York he created dramatic effect using red granite and huge timber doors from Rajasthan to grace the entrance to the Indian Permanent Mission to the UN. Corea’s design ensured that Indian craft gave maximum impact for visitors entering the mission.

 

Indian Mission to the UN Architect Charles Correa

Indian Mission to the UN New York

“What I’ve learned, living here in India, is that the most wonderful traditional solutions exist which exemplify all the concerns of the environmentalist today. We don’t have to invent these things again.”
-Charles Correa, in an interview with the BBC

Correa’s interest in Urban Planning led him to accept the role of Chief Architect for the new planned city of Navi Mumbai (New Bombay) from 1970-75 and later the commission by the Peruvian Government to help design the PREVI ‘Proyecto Experimental de Vivienda’ housing community, this would have been the perfect project for a man whose life-long focus was to find a solution to the desperate need for low-cost housing.

The Foundation

That is not to say he did not accept commissions for luxury homes.  Correa’s long and successful career has left a rich legacy and his archives are held, by his request after his death in 2015, at RIBA in London and at the Charles Correa Foundation in Goa. Corea’s deeply held belief was that there was a sense of connection between the land, the culture and the people.

Jwahar_Kala_Kendra Jaipur Charles Corea

The ceiling of Entrance Foyer Jawahar Kala Kendra Image: Quietsong CC BY SA-3.0

International recognition saw him awarded the RIBA Royal Gold Medal in 1984, Japan’s Praemium Imperiale, the Chicago Architecture Award from the AIA, the UIA Gold Medal from the Union of International Architects and the Aga Khan Award for Architecture. In 1984 he founded the Urban Design Research Institute in Mumbai and a year later he became Chairman of the National Commission for Urbanisation. In the midst of such glittering prizes its wonderful to pull back and return to the Ahmedabad Cricket Stadium, a simply perfect design.

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Stadium by Charles Correa

Image: Hardik Jadeja CC BY 3.0

charles correa ahmedabad cricket stadium Sardar Patel Municipal Cricket Stadium

We asked Carlo about how he took the photos of the cricket stadium;

‘The photos were snapshots. Sometimes the kids walked in the pictures. I thought it was funny so I included them.’ He explains, ‘Photography is an important part of my profession. Often I use the photographs as reference material when designing a new building’. This is one I took later on the same day in Ahmedabad. It is of the CEPT University by renowned Indian Architect  B.V. Doshi who did work at one point with Correa.

CEPT University, B.V. Doshi, Ahmedabad

Home-town stuff is intriguing. So we had to ask about Zurich

‘Zurich is a miniature metropolis with many post-1950s architectural gems. It sometimes, in the best of ways, has the feeling of a village. At the moment the city is experiencing rapid growth due to a growing population. More precisely in 2040 Zurich will have 20% more citizens. That will bring with it a demand for extra housing is already reflecting in new urban developments. Social housing is the key topic at the moment and that’s feeding into architectural discourse’.

You travel widely – any standout buildings and favourite architectural styles?

‘Post-War modernist Architecture and Brutalism of the ’50s and ’60s and of course Japanese Metabolism. This reflects in my choice of favourite buildings.  Kazuo Shinohara’s House in Uehara, the Tower House Azuma by Takamitsu Azuma
and the Nakagin Capsule Tower* by Kisho Kurokawa.’
Tower House, Architecture japan. Takamitsu Azuma, 1967 Jingumae Shibuya-ku Tokyo

The Tower House Azuma by Takamitsu Azuma

The architect you most admire?

Kazuo Shinohara

House in Uehara Architect: Kazuo Shinohara 1976

Kazou Shinohara’s House in Uehara

And your next adventure?

‘A coastal round trip around Italy with my ’77 Vespa TS’

Note to self from Greyscape…. this is the perfect holiday

Carlo Fumarola can be found at http://www.carlofumarola.ch/

On Instagram www.instragram.com/carlo1978

All images are Copyright of Carlo Fumarola*

*other images noted accordingly

 

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