Preserving Goa’s Art Deco legacy

Art Deco is a style that was all the rage globally in the 20th century. Buildings in this style can be found in Goa, too. Sadly, most are crumbling due to negligence, ignorance and indifference...
STYLE OF THE TIMES: The Congress House building, near the Betim ferry point, Panjim, has been built in the Art Deco style.
STYLE OF THE TIMES: The Congress House building, near the Betim ferry point, Panjim, has been built in the Art Deco style.Photo: Arti Das

MAYA ROSE FERNANDES

Almost as annoying as listening to visitors to Goa, going on and on about which beach to visit next, is their fixation on Indo-Portuguese houses and thinking that that’s the predominant architectural style of any value in Goa.

Equally invaluable, but largely ignored and extremely unappreciated, are the plethora of Art Deco style buildings and homes that proliferated Goa from the 1950s onwards for about two decades.

STYLE OF THE TIMES: The Congress House building, near the Betim ferry point, Panjim, has been built in the Art Deco style.
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This very particular style originated in the 1910s in France, and gradually influenced not only architecture but also fashion, furniture, jewellery and product design of all sorts.

It quickly spread across Europe and the USA, with a couple of the most famous American examples being the Chrysler building in New York and Miami’s Art Deco district in Florida.

STYLE OF THE TIMES: The Congress House building, near the Betim ferry point, Panjim, has been built in the Art Deco style.
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Those of us in the know will think about the apartment complexes lining Marine Drive or about Eros, Liberty, Metro and Regal Cinemas or many other such buildings scattered around Colaba, Fort and Churchgate area in Mumbai.

But, how many Goans even know of the existence of the many Art Deco buildings scattered around Mapusa, Panjim, Margao and Vasco, just to name a few of the cities that still have many standing examples?

How many Goans can recognise or identify the window grills, boundary walls or even entrance gates of a few decades ago that have their roots in this style?

The architectural style took on the organic-like curves and flamboyant flourishes of Art Deco, amalgamating them into many other styles, but in such a way that they starkly stand out even today.

How many Goans can recognise or identify the window grills, boundary walls or even entrance gates of a few decades ago that have their roots in this style?

One of the best standing examples of this style is The Mandovi Hotel in Panjim, which was built to cater to the expected influx of visitors to attend Goa’s Exposition of St Francis Xavier in 1952.

STYLE OF THE TIMES: The Congress House building, near the Betim ferry point, Panjim, has been built in the Art Deco style.
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Across the road from it is the one-storeyed Congress office building in the same style, with it’s streamline curves and wrap-around verandah.

If you look hard enough from the street below, you’ll spot a rabbit in the divider in the roof overhanging the balcony, sitting above everyone that walks down the balcony to enter the office.

Another obvious example of this glamourous and opulent style is the four-storeyed Damodar Niwas building on Mahatma Gandhi Road, Panjim.

Also built in 1952 and belonging to the Damodar Mangalji Company, this building has balconies that spread widely above the street junction as if it were a bird stretching open its wings.

For examples in Margao, look to Longuinhos restaurant, the Communidade building, Fatima Convent High School, the old Presentation Convent building or Loyola High School. 

Cine Lata, Cine Vishant and the Metropole Theatre (taken over by Nanutel), also all in the Margao area, are more examples of public buildings in the style.

STYLE OF THE TIMES: The Congress House building, near the Betim ferry point, Panjim, has been built in the Art Deco style.
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The Pilar Seminary museum building is another obvious example of the style.

Lightning flashes, frozen fountains, rising suns, geometric patterns, nautical themes like dummy portholes and waves, long lines, symmetric patterns and double-coloured layering are just a few of the most popular motifs that will help you recognise the style immediately.

STYLE OF THE TIMES: The Congress House building, near the Betim ferry point, Panjim, has been built in the Art Deco style.
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The Administracao das Communidades de Salcete building in Margao, Casa do Povo de Taleigao, Casa do Povo de Santo Estevao and the municipal market in Mapusa have Art Deco designed relief panels that stand out.

Once you recognise the style, you’ll start seeing it everywhere in Goa, from modest residences in far flung villages to market places, from cemeteries to government buildings, from schools to cinemas and many other places besides.

STYLE OF THE TIMES: The Congress House building, near the Betim ferry point, Panjim, has been built in the Art Deco style.
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The reason it’s worth highlighting this very important architectural style in Goa is because:

  1. It was the last international design style to influence Goa in such a big way that it proliferated so widely across the state

  2. It is one of the most internationally famous and instantly recognisable styles that is, nevertheless, terribly underappreciated and undervalued in Goa, and

  3. It needs to be regarded and preserved as part of Goa’s invaluable heritage, and more widely recognised as an integral style of architecture in Goa.

It is truly heart-breaking to see so many Art Deco style buildings and institutions being reduced to crumbling dust and ruins due to neglect and decay from the State and its residents.

It is truly heart-breaking to see so many Art Deco style buildings and institutions being reduced to crumbling dust and ruins due to neglect and decay from the State and its residents.

There are a few individuals involved in heritage conservation or education who are slowly bringing attention to the importance and value of these buildings.

But, much more needs to be done on a larger scale to safeguard these buildings in order to ensure that the cultural heritage and architectural legacy of Art Deco in Goa continues to inspire and influence future generations.  

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