28 Apr 2024  |   06:52am IST

GOA’S CRUMBLING ‘TAJ'

After being closed for over two years on account of renovation works, Kala Academy, the State’s premier art and culture centre, was finally thrown open to the public in November last year by the State government, after spending around Rs 56 crore on its renovation. But even before its reopening, the stage roof of the open air auditorium of Kala Academy collapsed in azzJuly last year, leading to uproar from across the State, particularly the Opposition leaders and cultural fraternity. If that was not enough, the mirrors in the green room collapsed in December last year, followed by the crumbling of the false ceiling inside the facility earlier this month. ANILKUMAR MISHRA digs deep to find out the root cause of this malice
GOA’S CRUMBLING ‘TAJ'

The premiere art and culture centre Kala Academy, termed as the “Taj Mahal of Goa” by Art and Culture Minister, Govind Gaude is battling with poor engineering.

After remaining closed for over two years on account of renovation works, Kala Academy, the State’s premier arts centre, was finally thrown open to the public in November last year by the State government, after spending around Rs 56 crore on its renovation. 

While inaugurating the renovated building, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant had said that the renovated structure would stand strong for the next 50 years. Leave alone 50 years, it hasn’t been able to stand for even 50 weeks. 

Even before the reopening of this iconic art and culture centre of Goa, the stage roof of the open air auditorium of Kala Academy collapsed in July last year. In December 2023, the mirrors in the green room, a crucial space for artists to prepare and unwind, came crashing down, a month after it was reopened.

Again this year on April 22, the false ceiling inside the Kala Academy came down crumbling in bits and pieces following sudden torrential rains.  

As per reports, there was a sign of water leakage which made the false ceiling weak and fell down. The entire corridor’s false ceiling was filled with water and was on the verge of collapsing. The surface of the ceiling was uneven as it had absorbed most of the leaked water making it soft. 

These incidents have raised speculation amongst the public on the inadequate work done for the renovation of Kala Academy. With just a month away from monsoons, people are now worried about the safety and durability of this renovated structure.

Before that on July 17, 2023, the roof of the open auditorium of the Kala Academy had collapsed.

Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, in a report tabled in the State Assembly, had said that the sudden collapse of the roof of the open auditorium was caused by corroded steel in the structure.

Laying the four reports obtained from PWD, RITES, IIT-Mumbai and IIT-Delhi, the last is an interim report, on the table of the House, Sawant said that these reports have indicated that failure of structure is basically due to corrosion of structural steel ISMB and N-Girders near support and also not being anchored/embedded in RCC slab causing reduction of load and moment resisting capacity of structural members. 

Hence composite structures were under corrosion attack over 43 years resulting in sudden collapse of structural steel members/RCVC slab.

Sawant said that though the structural repairs or strengthening to the open air auditorium was not carried out, 40 cm average thickness old waterproofing was removed and a new layer thickness of 20 to 30 cm including chemical water proofing was completed before the last monsoon.

He said that though the collapse structure was an integral part of the Kala Academy Complex, it was a standalone structure comprising seating area and covered stage of composite structure consisting of RCC slab of 7.5-10 cm thickness resting on the I-beam of depth 40 cm, columns and masonry walls. Terrace of the stage was covered with brickbat coba waterproofing with China mosaic flooring having average thickness of 40 cm.  

The Chief Minister said that before commencement of the repair works, three independent reports conducted by the Goa College of Engineering, Fem ENGSERV Pvt Ltd and IIT-Mumbai mentioned that there was no need of demolition of the Complex. He said that soon after the July 17 collapse, the government issued directions to ascertain the cause of the incident. 

Directions were also issued to the IIT Roorkee as an independent agency, in addition to directions to the contractor to obtain a report from IIT-Mumbai, which had carried out the structural ability of the Kala Academy building.    

The CM had said that since there was no response from IIT-Roorkee to conduct investigation even after continuous follow-ups, the government approached IIT-Delhi, which agreed to conduct the investigation and submit a detailed report.

State Art and Culture Minister Govind Gaude, while responding to allegations from the Opposition in the State Assembly, had defended the government’s move to nominate a contractor for the renovation work without floating a tender.

Even to prove his point, he had said that “even Shah Jahan hadn’t invited quotations for building the Taj Mahal.”

In March last year, the renovation of the building of Kala Academy, designed by celebrated Indian architect and urban planner late Charles Correa, had led to a war of words between Gaude and the Charles Correa Foundation (CCF).

The Foundation had accused the government and the minister of changing the core design elements of the heritage building to the point that “it will no longer be the same building”.

The foundation said the academy was one of the finest examples of architect Charles Correa’s work. It also showcased the work of renowned caricaturist Mario Miranda, whose hand-painted murals adorn the walls of the main auditorium. The world’s foremost acoustic consultants Bolt Beranek and Newman, who also designed the acoustics of the United Nations permanent headquarters in New York, also did the acoustics of Kala Academy. 

Charles Correa’s daughter Nondita Correa Mehrotra said the repairs were necessary, but “the lack of transparency” was troubling.

However, Minister Govind Gaude had hit back, alleging that the building had a ‘faulty design’ and that the foundation set up by Charles Correa was no longer a stakeholder who needed to be consulted at the time of renovation.

In September 2022, the Directorate of Vigilance had recommended that the state government constitute a technical expert committee to probe the alleged irregularities and corruption in the renovation of Kala Academy, following multiple complaints.

Reacting to the recent development, Mehrotra, who is also the director of CCF, said, “Despite being the largest and the primary source of information about the construction and history of the Kala Academy, the Charles Correa Foundation has been kept out of the loop and denied any access to the building and its conservation efforts.”

“We could have guided the renovation and suggested appropriate finishes, but we were kept out of every stage of the conservation and consultation process. Considering the government’s lack of transparency, we cannot comment any further, but regret the fact that Rs 59 crore of public money was spent in what appears to be substandard workmanship,” Mehrotra said.

Tahir Noronha, Architect and urban planner, who has been closing following the developments related to Kala Academy, said, “The Kala Academy case is troubling for any architect to see. But who’s to be blamed? I say the State government, especially the Art and Culture department, PWD and most importantly the State Cabinet. I see three lessons regarding what not to do in renovation. Hire an expert - there is a branch of architecture called conservation, and those professionals are skilled at repair techniques as well as renovation project management.”

“The government got a common contractor instead of an expert, called him an expert and gave him work without a tender. Then, engage local knowledge. Even after dismissing any professional expertise, the government could have still worked with the CCF and other stakeholders to solve strategies and repair the structure, but instead the Principal Chief Engineer of PWD, and the Art and Culture Minister didn’t share any information,” Noroha said. 

Political analyst and tiatr aficionado, Trajano D’Mello said, “The closing down of Kala Academy for over three years with a promise to present a beautifully renovated theatre, the Goa BJP government belied the confidence and patience of the people especially the ‘Tiatr Mogis’ and audience of Marathi plays, cultural programmes and learners of music and art.”

“The Cabinet decision to spend crores of rupees without tender on the pretext of nominating the contractors with expertise has turned out to be a fraud which is being supervised and certified for payment by PWD. The theatre visited by many after its reopening have commented that there is no feel of anything good or new.  Even the sound system where crores of rupees is supposed to have been spent is in a disastrous state,” Trajano said.

“The bits and pieces falling from the ceiling could have turned out to be dangerous to human life. It won’t be a surprise if the government takes a decision to once again close Kala Academy for public audiences and the re-opening may happen till the crows turn white. The Chief Minister should institute a time-bound inquiry to pinpoint and nail the culprits who carried out this shoddy work,” he said.

Actor Rajdeep Naik said, “The design made by renowned architect Charles Correa was so beautiful but after renovation by spending crores of rupees, it appears that the money has been simply wasted. We cannot put a sound system in the auditorium. We are forced to put it outside. Earlier lighting system was very nice. But now they have installed LED lights which are of no use. There is a vast difference between the old light system and the new one. They have destroyed the acoustic system.”

Tiatrist Auggie D’Mello said, “I expected that once Kala Academy was renovated, I would hear the best sound quality, see the best lighting effect. But that is not happening. I do not understand what kind of renovation has been done.”

“The condition of Kala Academy was much better earlier than what it is now, after the renovation by spending so much crores of money. Earlier everything was fine whether it was light or sound effect. Everything was just fine. After renovation, the overall quality of the facility has deteriorated by 80 per cent,” D’Mello said.

Meanwhile, speaking to O Heraldo, Minister for Art and Culture Govind Gaude said, “Public Works Department (PWD) is carrying out the work and it has not handed over the building to Kala Academy. They are carrying out some small works here and there. The contractor has been appointed by the PWD.”

“It is the PWD which is executing the entire work from beginning till date and has written letters not once, twice but on many occasions and reminders to them and asked them to hand over the building and to issue a structural stability certificate,” he said.


IDhar UDHAR

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