City Council

City Council

Madgaon [Margão], Goa, India

Equipment and Infrastructures

The Salcette City Council was built in 1903 and is one of the most impressive constructions from Portuguese rule to have survived to this day – an evident demonstration of the county’s importance in the framework of the Estado da Índia and particularly in the context of Goa. The project was developed and approved in the previous year, budgeted at 65,000 rupees. Oral testimony indicates that José Lourenço, born in Margao and who worked with his uncle Aloísio Colaço in Mumbai, was the project’s designer. The urban placement of the Margao City Council building is one of its most important aspects, given that, together with the railway line and respective station, it marked a new expansion of the city. The building was set at the far end of a garden that would later become the Municipal Garden, and organised all the surrounding space. This arrangement most likely decisively influenced the architecture, given that its four urban fronts evidently led them to be treated in practically the same way. The building is symmetrical with a rectangular plan, hip roof and practically identical façade pairs. The exception is in the entrance zone, marked by a twofloor galilee comprising three arches that sustained a geometrically decorated pediment, where there was a difference between the south and north faces. The building had two floors and a simple plan, with evident correspondence between inside and outside. The building’s internal structure is defined by two axes of symmetry: the central corridor and the entrance perpendicular to it. The only exception to the symmetry imposed by these two axes is in the main entry area, where the lower floor has an unclosed space, while in the southern part there is just another office, as otherwise reflected on the façade. The unclosed space on the lower floor was a reception/waiting room next to the main hall. The precise use of the other lower floor rooms, which were accessed via a central corridor, is unknown. At ground level some rooms have direct street access. The building also boasts a wraparound gallery on both the lower and upper floors. The north and south façades are divided into five parts by pilasters that also correspond to an interior division, i.e. to the arches holding up the floors. The definition of the ground floor column cornerstones and voussoirs converts these constructive elements into decorative features, though it is not exactly a rusticated arcade. The fact that cornerstones of the ground floor’s central body have disappeared, but reappear on the floor above, gives this building an unusual appearance, strong and rich at the same time. The building is also marked by two balustrades, one that acts as a finishing element on the roof and the other on the upper floor. The differently-shaped geometric medallions on both floors only exist in the central part and reinforce the presence of the decoration. It is not known how the building functioned under Portuguese administration. On the main floor the unclosed central space was possibly a waiting area, while the other divisions were probably offices whose function is not known. Between the construction date and the year 1953 the building underwent some changes, revealed in period photographs. The entrance’s pediment was removed and the upper part of the projecting body demolished. The building’s corners were also visibly strengthened, indicating structural problems. The form recalls contemporary Macau buildings, as José Manuel Fernandes mentions. That resemblance is probably more than just a coincidence, given that public works officials moved between the different colonies. But in British India constructions with a similar form are also seen, ranging from those linked to administration to barracks. It is not known whether José Lourenço studied in the neighbouring territory, though it is quite natural that he did. The Salcette City Council is the first public edifice which uses arches on the façades. It is also the only one in Goan territory whose designer is known, as it was done by a private professional – a clear statement of the autonomy and power of the Salcette Council. It is thus a singular and exceptional example in Goan territory, reflecting both the power of Salcette and the changes then under way in Goan society and which would be felt in public works in the early decades of the 20th century.

Alice Santiago Faria