Go(a), art dekho: Explore the stunning architectural style of the state

Updated: Apr 12, 2019, 20:29 IST | Dalreen Ramos

This summer take a trip to the sunshine state, leave the beaches behind and spot the opulent architectural style, as documented by a new Instagram account

Go(a), art dekho: Explore the stunning architectural style of the state
Our Lady of Pilar Seminary, Pilar

After drawing inspiration from part art movements like cubism and fauvism, the Art Deco style has been quite a movement in itself — not only with its geometrical discipline but also because of how it was introduced in 1930s Bombay, and Goa. We have the American motorcar to thank for that.


"Art Deco, which originated in the United States in the early part of the 20th century, came to British-India through a rather unusual route. The American motorcar, finding its way through the Subcontinent, brought some enterprising Goans into contact with Bombay's Central Business District and its architecture," note writers Heta Pandit and Farah Vakil in Hidden Hands: Master Builders of Goa. But unlike Mumbai's SoBo precinct, little attention is paid to the style in the neighbouring state. That's what set a Goan, Nathan Fernandez, to wander around in his own neighbourhood this year.

A store in Church Square, Panjim

Insta heritage

"I studied at IHM Mumbai for three years since 2011. Every Sunday morning I would board a local train to Churchgate and spend the day wandering around the streets of town, talking to the elderly, and walking into the old Irani cafés," Fernandez shares. Not being an architecture student, he also made several trips to Fort bookstore Kitab Khana to educate himself about the style.

A structure in the town of Bicholim

While tourists still have their feet stuck in the sand or declare their undying love for Portuguese-styled homes and the churches of Old Goa, the 27-year-old, who works as a bar manager, started documenting the many opulent wonders in the state on Instagram though his account artdecogoa, since February. "I feel there is a lot of attention been given to Goan Portuguese architecture but not enough at the moment to Art Deco," he says.

Nathan Fernandez and Raya Shankhwalker

Vikas Dilawari

The style served as a transition from the traditional to the modern. "According to the oral history in Panjim, private Art Deco homes were actually reconstructions — after the old structures were burnt down or collapsed," Goa-based architect Raya Shankhwalker tells us. So, there isn't a set district and such buildings are scattered all over the state. "The attraction was the use of concrete. The style flourished in Mumbai and so you can see the impact of a lot of city architects," says city-based conservation architect Vikas Dilawari.

The Damodar Mangaljee building in Panjim is an interesting corner building with curvilinear balconies while the Camara Municipal de Bardez

The most notable structures, both designed in 1952 in the state include the Damodar Mangaljee building in Panjim and Mapusa's Hotel Mandovi designed by Bombay's notable architects Master, Sathe and Bhuta. "The buildings here are far more minimal, and use more curved rather than linear elements in Mumbai; each building has a different expression," Shankhwalker says.

A municipality library in Mapusa, has a unique mild steel (MS) railing, a replica of which is difficult to find in Mumbai, according to Dilawari

No heritage tag

But the need for conservation is imperative. "Although in the last two decades there has been an improvement, the pride among locals is still minimal. Heritage walks continue to be tourist-centric rather than people-centric. More importantly, Goa doesn't have a heritage list," Shankhwalker explains, and Fernandez, drawing from first-hand experience, concurs, "Cracked plaster, peeling paint, illegal structural modifications all take away the beauty of these once majestic structures. And it's terrible to learn that we've lost a few buildings already due to sheer neglect, family feuds or redevelopment."

Dr Olavo Ribeiro Hospital in Feira Alta,  Mapusa, Dilawari says, displays the high plinth and external steps that is typical of Goa

Even the relief pattern spotted in Fontainhas, Panjim (right) is very common

Juggling his day job, Fernandez will continue the documentation. At least so that the next time you visit Goa or think about visiting it, you'll look beyond the beer binging and beach-bumming.

Dos and don'ts

  • Avoid littering
  • As these structures comprise private institutions and homes, do not invade their residents' privacy while trying to photograph the buildings
  • Carry water and a hat if you plan on visiting these at a stretch

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