Friday, October 26, 2007

A Redwashed Bastion - Holding Fort in South Goa

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.


sam_the_ram said...

I am reminded distinctly about two things
about the municipal garden.
One is a small structure (may be you
can write about the architectural relevance of the structure) in the middle of
the garden with seats, where old people
used to visit in the evenings for a meeting. I remember my maternal grandfather with a walking stick in hand
meeting his other friends in the evenings. This was more than 30 years back.
My maternal grandfather's place (incidently where I was born) is a stone's throw from the garden. This
square also used to be a place for
exhibitions and other public display

The other is the "bancs" or sitting places that formed the fence of the garden. When as college students, we used to while all our evenings away sitting on the benches watching the pretty girls of Margao go by. I still have some good memories of those times, and hope to have an old friends' reunion sometimes on those benches.


Anonymous said...

Hey man,

Good to see ur blog coming up. U actually counted the arches eh!...hehe.

Well u have certainly written a nice architectural essay on the building indeed!

Our buildings & architecture surely influence our minds and thought processes. Some buildings become the identity of a place. And i believe the Margao Municipal building is one such building. All of Margao revolves around the municipal building. U ask some1 directions...u look at the development & market of margao town...the bus stand(old)....the fish market(old)......the Collectors office....The Church...the ever busy Kamat Restaurant....everything revolves around that..

Architecture is all about creating buildings that make an impression on peoples minds & this buildings surely is one! It has withsttod the ravages of time & maintained its own dignity in the confusion of modern structures around it.

Lets hope we can create such lasting and impressive architecture which brings stability & a sense of balance !


JoeGoaUk said...

It was very nice.

I was wondering if anyone knows about the old borim bridge now abandoned and seen in 3 parts
see pic

The year it was built etc


Anonymous said...

tres bien! Keep writing!


Maria said...

Good job with the pics and the blog! It's enlightening going through your detailed blog.