On Saturday, 20th June 2015, the Chennai Architecture Foundation organized an in memoriam gathering for Charles Correa. The venue was the atrium space of the MRF Corporate Office on Greams Road in Chennai designed by Correa himself; a building that remains in the top spot of my list of favourite post-independence buildings in Chennai.
The evening began with a solemn introduction by Pramod Balakrishnan, followed by very brief notes from Durganand Balsavar and the MRF Chairman, Vinoo Mammen. It was evident that words were hard to come by not just out of grief but also out of deep respect for the man we had lost. This was followed by a screening of a lecture given by Charles Correa in 2013 in Mumbai at the Jnanapravaha titled ‘My Work, My Thoughts’. Once again, apart from his hallmark charisma and wit, the gathering was engulfed by Correa’s genius, profundity and clarity of thought… while he made it all seem so effortless… like it was common sense. When the video ended, it was hard not to be moved to tears.
The evening concluded with members of the audience sharing their thoughts and memorable anecdotes of their encounters with the man. Biju Kuriakose summed it up best when he called attention to Correa’s role as a teacher… a teacher who was able to presage the way our cities would grow and therefore proactively demonstrate how we ought to design and build our cities… a teacher who dealt uncompromisingly with social issues in all his works… and a teacher we never listened to.