Saturday, December 8, 2007

Houses of Margao

Let's take a stroll down three roads in Margao. Padre Miranda road is a busy two-way road stretching from the Margao Municipal Garden right down to Holy Spirit Church. The newly renovated Ana Fonte garden, Hospicio Hospital, Hotel Nanutel (next to the once famous Cine Metropole), Clergy Home and the Margao cemetery line up along this route.
The houses were grand with a small garden and an impressive balcony at the front. Only eight or so of these grand old houses remain. The high plinth helped to literally look down on lesser mortals!
This unfortunate house reflects poor taste in the alterations carried out. The newer brick pillars and the ugly shop front and sign need to be removed. Some folks can't see a good thing when they live in it.
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Abade Faria road is a narrower one-way lane running parallel to PM road. The house fronts are bang up the road with a few exceptions. Again eight or nine house have large facades with corbelled balconies with consoles, moulding at the eaves and intricate railings. Trefoil window arches were very popular. Other houses that line the lane are smaller and modest, but in the same style.
This yellow house has a little garden patch at its corner. I think there was a school or some institution housed here, which bore the legendary Abbe de Faria's name and hence the road name. All graceful and elegant structures that reflect the taste of their times.
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And finally a little lane in the old quarter of Comba. It runs parallel to the Rua Aba de Faria and is one of a network of spidery streets in this ancient residential area.
Architect and planner Ashish Sinai Rege has studied the evolution of Margao in his excellent paper "Urban Metamorphosis in Margao". His exhibition of photos and drawings showing the gradual organic expansion of Goa's commercial capital was very insightful. The houses of Comba with a largely Hindu population are smaller, modest and inward looking. The houses at the Largo da Igreja (Holy Spirit Church square) are grandiose, with balconies and facades designed to impress the status of the resident gentry upon the awed pedestrian.
Alas scores of beautiful old houses have fallen to the builder's axe. Neither Borda's stately mansions nor Comba's quaint cottages have been able to resist the craze of concrete. The houses on Abade Faria road have been protected by the conservation zone zealously guarded by Arch Sarto Almeida and others. They will structurally outlast the concrete blocks, that's for sure, if they are not 'manually' destroyed.


leonardjensan said...

An absolutely splendid job, Jose. As we (my wife and I) drive by, we cannot help but wonder about the history behind those houses. You are right, some people don't know what they have. Not to mention those who surrender it all for "a couple of free flats"

That paper you it available for purchase anywhere?

Good job, again,

Leonard Fernandes

Jose Lourenco said...

Thanks, Leonard. When I visited Rege's exhibition I read the text accompanying the photographs on his panels. But I will try and get a copy of his paper and post a link with his permission. His panels showed a step by step evolution of Margao right from pre-Portuguese days.

With prices of heritage homes shooting up, now owners are more aware of their value. The builders lobby has also caught on. There are new projects like the controversial Aldeia de Goa which boast of 'newly constructed old style villas'.

sam_the_ram said...

These houses are what Goa is. When replacing these houses by flats, we are killing our Goa. But I guess there is also the money element. I am sure some people living in these houses dont have money and so they sell off.

In a house between the roads mentioned Abade Faria Road, and Padre Miranda Road (I learnt that name today only :-), I was born more than 40 years back. My grandfather had rented the house at Rs. 30/- per month. I am told the rent still remains the same.

I have great memories of that place. Waking up in the morning in that house, and sitting in the balcao with sunlight all over, is such a great pleasure that one can't have in the apartments of New York or Bangalore. Besides, one can't be more in the center of the city and yet in a completely residential place, in that place.



I've walked up and down these streets recently: they are VERY evocative.

There is a novel which utterly brings about the atmosphere around these houses: "O Último Olhar de Manú Miranda", by Orlando da Costa. The author lived in a house on Abade Faria till he was 18 years old.

Anonymous said...

Wow! wow! this blog is amazing! I love this article on the houses in Margao :) I've lived here all my life and I fall more in love with these houses every time I see them. you have a picture of a blue and white house on Rua Abade Faria, coincidentally it belongs to a very good friend of mine, Fernando Monte da Silva. You are right, these houses are so beautiful and I threatened him to never sell the house or else!!!

Anonymous said...

Rightly said by Jose Lourence the only way to sustain these mansions from monetary warth of selling or demolishing from its owners is to orient them to generate some revenue to its owner for maintainence and benefits by the Goa Goverment rather than commercialsing concrete 5 stars anemities where only the few rich corporates benefit displacing Local economy n locals, at the same time preserving our heritage +maintaining our cultural heritage/history+ revenue for state and owner and tourism industry..the Goa goverment must stop commercial 5 star and formulate contructive torism models/policies where all benefit in a sustainable manner and not a few 5 star concrete domiteries....the Goa goverment must take these heritage inconfidence for sustain-ability
After all tourist come to Goa becoz of its people who have great culture + heritage and not becoz of beaches likewise even kerala have better beaches than GOA..

Joao Sebastiao Manuel Honorato Menezes said...

Hi Jose,

All I can say is that we Goans owe you.