“I’ve never designed a glass building,” Charles Correa said once. “I’ve never felt the need to. I’ve used glass, but I wouldn’t say I’ve ever designed a glass tower. I wouldn’t be so stupid as to do that.” – a maxim he stayed true to until his last breath in Mumbai last week, aged 84. A true master, it was his ability to take a complex program and simplify it with a minimalist’s hand that above all responded to the context in which it was located. It was an idea of architecture that he would dedicate his life to.
Nowhere is this idea exhibited as more refined and poetic than in his Tube House of 1962 in the semi-arid town of Ahmedabad situated in the west of India. All of his ideologies filter into the plans for this remarkable low-income social housing unit – a model devoid of any windows or internal walls. Cool air moves through the house naturally as it comes through the ground floor and out through an internal courtyard roof that restores the dignity to those living in the hot Indian summers.
“It is wonderful how climate can generate architectural form. This is true of the igloo, it’s true of the Pacific Islands. It’s true everywhere. You have to respect climate. You have to look at local materials, local technology and then you can come up with elegant, surprising architecture.” he said in an interview with Rob Wilson for Uncubed magazine in the run up to his retrospective at RIBA in 2013. Correa was a visionary of sustainable architecture and, as the exhibition made clear, pre-empted a lot of the contemporary discussions around sustainability today with solutions that were affordable enough to enhance the lives of the majority of the populace.
Today, as Correa puts it, “most of the new buildings are the same old glass buildings”, regardless of climate. They just change the specification of glass in hot places. Indian cities, meanwhile, “are being used by politicians to rake off profits. It’s quite shocking.
“I don’t expect anyone to follow me,” he says, “but am I frustrated? Yes, reasonably so.”
Uncubed magazine presented an incredible online magazine of Correa’s body of work that can be viewed here.