Cidade de Goa designed by the late Charles Correa serves as an inspired take on the state's syncretic architectural heritage
Cidade de Goa, incidentally, is the first SeleQtions property, a portfolio of classic hotels carefully curated by IHCL
Rising behind the original quartos of the Charles Correa-designed Cidade de Goa is the new Taj Hotel & Convention Centre, perched on a hillside in Panjim. "The luxury hotel has the largest convention facility in the state and commands enviable views of the coastline," says Suresh Khanna Nanjan, General Manager, Cidade de Goa. "Guests who come to the Taj will have access to Cidade's facility, and hopefully, will want to stay back or come again to enjoy its boutique experience."
Cidade de Goa, incidentally, is the first SeleQtions property, a portfolio of classic hotels carefully curated by IHCL. Between the Taj Hotel & Convention Centre and Cidade, the complex is home to 500 rooms. Cidade is a Goa classic, located on the isolated Vainguinim beach, at the cusp of the Zuari River and the Arabian Sea. The complex is divided into two distinct parts—the lower one with the original resort by Correa, and the upper portion, the new hotel on the cliff. Cidade de Goa continues to grow in strength as part of the SeleQtions portfolio now.
This painting of the thriving silk trade is inspired by Adil Shah of Bijapur's reign in Goa.
Correa was inspired by his home state Goa, the powers that ruled it and left their impression on its architecture and culture, and by Cubism. He created a beautiful hotel with ochre-yellow façade and seamlessly integrated outdoor-indoor spaces. Cidade, monikered ‘A village within a resort’, drew references from a quintessential Portuguese village. “Cidade de Goa was the original name for Panaji, or Panjim, Goa’s capital city,” says Keith Pinto, Director of Sales at the hotel.
Pinto, Goa-born, who shifted back to the state a few years ago, has also curated the heritage walk across the hotel. Set on a rocky outcrop, Correa has created a 'Portuguese hamlet'-sort of ambience, with the little nooks that characterise a small town or village. Across the hotel are Goa’s classic cultural and design elements —intimate alcoves, overhanging balcaos, wall murals, the entrance arch, the tavern and the coconut palms that circle it. Meandering hallways, elevated terraco, art commissioned by Correa and cosy courtyards transport guests to an era when life must have been much slower.
Charles Correa took inspiration from Cubism for the architecture of the resort.
Cidade de Goa descends to a beach on the Zuari River. A long driveway leads down into a lush green valley. At the entrance of the hotel, whichstands at the end of a curved path, are a painting of two sentries who welcome you into the gated city, as they would have done in real-life in the past. Correa has leveraged the heritage of Goa’s various communities to create a vibrant cultural patina. On the right of the lobby, above the reception desk, is a Saraswat-themed wall frieze inspired by the Kadamba dynasty, which ruled parts of Goa between 1050 AD and 1345 AD.
To the right of the lobby is art inspired by the Adil Shah of Bijapur’s dynasty, which ruled Goa for some time. The motifs on the wall are inspired by the silk trade that flourished at that time, as well as elements of Islamic architecture. Within the lobby are sculptures of three facets of the explorer, Vasco da Gama— the statesman, the philosopher and the explorer, deep in conversation, in a nod to Portuguese rule.
Right at the resort entrance is a painting of two sentries guarding the gated city, as they would have done back then in the Portuguese era.
There is beautiful art all around— covering the walls and the corridors, some inspired by other artists, such as Spanish artist Giorgio de Chirico, whose silhouette pops up rather interestingly on a wall inspired by his art. Correa used a cinema poster painter, one Mr Bhidekar, to hand-paint the art. Through its visual imagery, the architect ensured that even the mundane becomes extraordinary. A wall in the passage of the lobby is not just a wall, but a street, adding a fourth dimension to the space. The drop-off zone isn't just a place to drop passengers, but a town square, with two soldiers guarding a doorway, a trompe l'oeil, a painting on a bare wall. The balcaos have been re-imagined in a modern context, and the building blocks are articulated in such a way that the resort looks like a part of Lisbon washed up against the shore.
The striking 3D paintings on the walls include that of a lady walking hurriedly across a corridor, towards the sea. One of my favourites is a painting of abuzzing street deli inspired by the street delis of Lisbon which sprawls, like a leitmotif, across Docaria, the bakery and snack bar. Across the corridors that connect the reception with the suites are pathways that run-up to the hill, reminiscent of the pathways in Lisbon in their play of colours such as yellows and browns. If the top-draw Presidential suite, the Vasco da Gama suite, epitomizes luxury with its theme décor, the Jardim Suite has an enclosed garden and barbecue area. The most expensive suites are on the seafront, where the verandahs have in-built furniture and the views are of the Dona Paula.
Alfama, the elegant restaurant, is a venue for Fado performances every week.
Alfama, the elegant restaurant where, every week, a family sings The Fado (the haunting Portuguese song), is imbued with design elements of a bohemian quarter of Lisbon, the birthplace of the Fado. Singers and musicians serenade guests while standing, or seated, in romantic balconies and alcoves.
Correa once wrote about his multi-fragmented approach to design. ''Many buildings present you with a series of spellbinding effects, without any real inter-relationship. That one set-piece follows the previous one in a knockout sequence...'' Pinto talks about how Correa, inspired by Cubism, created a hotel with seamlessly integrated indoor and outdoor spaces. The corridors are partly open to the elements and command a view of pretty courtyards that have patches of green and are open at the top.
Spanish artist Giorgio de Chirico's silhouette pops up interestingly on this hand-painted wall.
The façade wall has square punctuations that allow a flash of the sea as you walk past. Whatever the season, the hotel doesn’t require constant air-conditioning; it has fresh air flowing in from the outside. The linear, multi-level configuration of guest rooms echoes village life in Goa through the use of balcao, or the seating space outside Goan homes from where, in the evenings, residents watch the world go by.
Cidade de Goa is no stranger to change. It has undergone major refurbishment and extension works ever since its inception. The new wing was designed symmetrically opposite to the main block in 1998 and sensitively blends in with Correa’s main wing.