The collapse of the slab over the stage area of the Kala Academy open-air auditorium throws up several questions that require an answer from those tasked with its upkeep and ongoing renovation.
We will come to those questions just a little later, for first the decision of the government to involve an Indian Institute of Technology to ascertain the cause of the collapse also raises questions.
The fact that the government has fallen back on a premier institute of engineering to study the cause of the collapse indicates that this government and its agencies are not competent to do so.
Why can’t the Public Works Department (PWD) or the Goa State Infrastructure Development Corporation undertake this study? Is it beyond their capabilities? A preliminary report will be prepared by the PWD. Why wouldn’t that be enough to ascertain the cause of the collapse?
Surprisingly, the slab of a structure that is just over four decades old collapsed when there are older buildings that still stand, even in the vicinity of the Kala Academy.
The unique architectural design of the Kala Academy makes the structure recognisable internationally. It is sad that a part of it could be allowed to collapse when other portions of the complex are under renovation.
Didn’t anybody turn their eyes to this portion of the complex and notice that it was unstable?
During the long debate over the renovation, there was concern that the open-air theatre of the Kala Academy would be razed and a new structure built in its place.
Now, therefore, when it is the roof of the stage area of the open-air theatre that has crumbled, the defence is that this part of the complex had not been renovated. Why wasn’t it?
It is these points in the debate that bring us back to the collapse and the questions that arise from it. Why wasn’t this slab tested before the renovation work was undertaken? If it was tested, was it found to be strong? If so, could it be that the renovation work of the rest of the structure has affected this slab?
If the IIT is going to be ascertaining the cause of the collapse, we also should be told whether these questions will be asked during the course of the study that the institute will undertake.
They are important for the people of Goa for whom the Kala Academy is not just a structure in stone and concrete, but an iconic symbol of Goa’s art and architecture, created by a Goan of international renown.
It showcased Goa’s art, but it was designed by none other than Charles Correia, Goa’s foremost architect and one of India’s leading lights in the field of architecture, with accolades from across the world.
His structures can be seen not just in India, but in other countries too, and it is difficult to imagine that one of his designs – especially one that would have been close to his heart – could have developed faults within just a few decades.
Perhaps, the maintenance of the structure led to this. That, too, has to be ascertained in the probes and appropriate action taken.
The renovation of the Kala Academy has been mired in controversy with the government pushing ahead with its own reasoning despite opposition – not always political – but from the Charles Correia Foundation, which has a stake in the Kala Academy.
The aim of the renovation was to strengthen, stabilise and restore the sprawling structure.
The open-air auditorium has to be preserved for the future. Now that the roof of the stage has come down, there hangs a big question mark over its overall stability and whether it will remain standing.
It is sad that an iconic structure like the Kala Academy is allowed to be treated in such a shabby manner.
To the artistes who have performed there, to the artists who have exhibited there, to the students who have studied there, the Kala Academy is not just a structure, but a place which holds a soft spot in their hearts. The aim, the only one at that, should be to save it for future generations.