Traditional Goan homes under threat from commercial interests


By Pamela D'Mello.  From     

The Asian Age

Traditional Goan houses — specially
sprawling mansions scattered across the state — are facing a
"great threat" from commercial interests and the changing social
structure, achitectural experts have warned.

     "Goan houses are truely splended and display a character and
style of their own," says architect Gerard da Cunha, who leads a
team that has put together a unique exhibition on the subject.

     Goa's larger homes have long been the envy of visitors and
others, and are unique because of the influence of the long
Portuguese colonial influence here. Not all own such homes though.

     Funded by earnings of foreign-settled expatriates and local
landlords, these homes show Italian classical features in their
facades. Such homes often have local azure-white-yellow colours,
and pillars and piers that are a mixed bag of architectural styles.

     "Even Hindus' homes are very shaped by colonial influences,"
says da Cunha. His study looks at the elements that went into the
making of large Goan houses, including typical flooring, windows
and doors, false ceilings, gateposts and compound walls.

     Over many months, he and a team of architects and others,
have put together an extensive study of 150 prominent houses in
the state. After concluding an exhibition at the Portuguese-run
Orient Foundation, he plans to publish his findings in a book.

     Da Cunha's photo documentation seeks to focus on what Goa's
houses were before the advent of the Portuguese in early 1510,
and whether current-day homes are "truely" a product of a
marriage between eastern and western styles.

     Goan early migrants to different parts of the globe,
including Africa, brought back influences from far and wide. Some
houses show murals of zebras from Kenya and plants from other
areas of the dark continent.

     Goa's larger homes are also known for their elaborate gate-
posts. Some have soldiers and lions in stone guarding the gates.
Other homes show Moorish (Arabic) influences.

     "Goan houses work in a very common language. But they all do
different things," explains da Cunha.

     Goa had access to laterite, which allowed very good
moulding. Homes had high plinths and were built on a height —
both to protect from humidity and as a status symbol.

     Glass came into Goa only in 1890, and then too, it was very
costly. So windows used panels made of natural sea-shells, and
glass was used to the minimum.

     Broken china was used for making floors. Ironically this
china could have come in the shape of ballast for ships. Such
ballast was dumped here, after ships loaded goods in Goa, a
former prominent centre for international trade.
     Some of the elite homes still display the coat of arms
granted to the families by the former colonial Portuguese
government. (END)

Further details can be found at:
I gather that the exhibition is travelling, with Gerard da Cunha, to
Portugal next month.

Forwarded by Eddie Fernandes.