19 arches span the long side of the Margao Municipal Council building. Sporting a striking red colour, probably since it was built, this edifice stands at the southern end of the Margao Municipal Garden. The garden was formerly known as Praça Jorge Barreto after the distinguished Mayor of that time. The MMC building houses the Margao Municipality and the Municipal Library. Until a few years ago pleasant Konkani music would stream from the Camara (Municipal Building) through the lush gardenscape. The present day councillors are busy dancing to political music only they can hear!
Built in 1905, the building reflects the movement of the Portuguese colonial style from Neo-Roman traditionalism towards modernism. A few years later the Art Deco movement would begin in France and take the western world by storm. In fact the arch over the staircase in this building has a grille with the rising-sun motif, an Art Deco favourite. Monumental effect is achieved by the endless arches and the dramatic voussoir plaster bands. The Roman arch-pier form gives a classical look but the rectangular block with its simple solid lines also displays a no-nonsense functionality with minimal motifs.
Laterite walls hold up wooden floorboards creaking a music that has been playing for a hundred years. Ferrocement panels span the corridor which encircles the functional core. The corridor itself is a miniature village street. Cobblers vie for your feet while the motorcycle pilots and other enthusiasts engross themselves in a serious card game. Gambling under the nose of the city-fathers, admonish the dailies, but life goes on. Fisherwomen, taxidrivers and other faithful touch the small shrine of Our Lady at one corner as they pass by. As dusk falls, homeless migrant workers take refuge in the shadows of the arches.
The entrance arches at the north and south ends of the praça would be quite at home in a Japanese garden. The northern part of the garden is called the Aga Khan Children’s Park. The entire garden has been fenced by ridiculously ugly grillwork in recent years. A public outcry arose, but the political will and grill was stronger and stayed put. Perhaps we can tear it down some day soon.
The MMC building has undergone major renovation work for its centenary celebrations. I wish it had been restoration work, this edifice could have been a nice record of interior design of the early nineties. The present new look for the interiors is soulless funereal kitsch.