The Houses Of Goa Museum

Discover Gerard da Cunha’s museum showcasing the ‘houses of Goa’

The first time I chanced upon the very regal sounding Salvadar-do- Mundo village was when I went in search of Nisha’s school. As I drove down the lane, I was intrigued at being led through a narrow fork, reaching a traffic island. Then boom, almost serendipitously I discovered a fabulous structure that looked like a large ship from one end or a fish with an open mouth, almost yawning or ready to eat, depending on your mood, from a different angle. Curious to take a peek, I walked into this mysterious space that is the ‘Houses of Goa’ museum.

As a visitor, I was sold on the modern design of this structure. After all, this is a museum that chronicles the architecture of Goan houses through the centuries. Somehow the concept of showcasing the old within a modern structure built on traditional materials seemed most fitting. India is terrible when it comes to archiving and curating its local culture so when someone does take the effort to independently fill this void, you can’t but look up in admiration at Gerard da Cunha, the man behind this project, a celebrated architect himself. emanating from a germ of an idea in 1992, while promoting the book ‘houses of Goa’, he went on to establish this permanent space in 1999. In fact, he is also responsible in bringing out the english version of the book ‘Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent’, ironically written by a Japanese, Takeo Kamiya. When asked how different the Goan house was in comparison to other colonised states, Gerard says “The Portuguese conquest in 1510 changed the development of Goan houses by using religion and conversions to make inroads with a european lifestyle encouraged.

Over time, this amalgamation of the east and the West created a unique design sensibility that became richer and innovative in form. The Goan house was a complete hybrid quite different from Kerala or even Pondicherry where it didn’t seep in as deeply.” The first floor of the museum showcases models of houses built in the 18th and 19th centuries, including Mario Miranda’s ancestral home, Casa dos Mirandas in Loutolim. By the 19th century, Goan houses sought to establish its own identity and the final form took over 200 years to evolve.

Going through the museum is a lesson in understanding the underlying class consciousness of that time and the emergence of raised plinths in spaces like the ‘Balcaos’ (balconies) with the ‘Bhatkar’ (head of the household) holding court from the balcao while the mundddkars (tenants at will) seated on either side of the steps. The second level is a treasure trove in documenting the different kinds of doors, railings, altars, oyster shell windows, Azulejo and mosaic tiles, Indo-Portuguese furniture including a ‘machila’ (an olden day palanquin) and rare hat-stands called ‘Cabide’ in Portuguese (Gerard’s personal favourite); an interesting panel that shows Goa in the context of the world, with details of important Goan monuments and other heritage sites across the world from that era.

The third level documents the Tulsi Vrindavans in Hindu households and the ‘Crosses’ that were neighbourhood symbols painted white. The effort is seen and the passion is felt. “Most of the archival materials like columns, railings, altars etc were bought by me from junkyards,” says Gerard, the intrinsic collector and recycling specialist. Much as one would marvel at the collectibles inside, it’s also the design, layout and the natural construction of the entire space outside that includes Nisha’s Pre-school, Shiksha Niketan and his own home that makes it a seamless unit (yes, all done by him).

Just across the museum is Gerard’s other pet project, the ‘Mario Gallery’. here, he exhibits originals and prints of Mario Miranda’s work. Prices of the originals range from `35,000 to `2 lakhs and for prints, it begins at an affordable `3000. Several other merchandise ranging from books, diaries and postcards with Mario’s art are also available.

For someone who can be self confessedly obsessive about his projects, it doesn’t come as a surprise that Gerard has been at the forefront in the restoration of the Reis Magos Fort near Panjim, which is now emerging as a cultural centre. To all those visiting Goa and for local Goans too, here is a slice of history that will help you appreciate and savour the charm of Goa even more and makes you desperately hope that these traditional homes will continue to fascinate and exist in the future.

Houses of Goa Museum: open from 10a.m to 7:30p.m (monday closed) entry: 100 (with coupon of50), sundays: 25, children:25 mario Gallery: open from 10a.m to 5:30p.m, saturday (half day)

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Author: Planet Goa Team
For us at Planet-Goa, our team is driven by that feeling of exhilaration that one gets when discovering that something ‘unique’ and ‘new’ about Goa for our ever-so-discerning readers.


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