Brancavara Fishermen's Quarter
Diu, Guzerate, India
The Fishermen’s Quarter of Brancavara (Vanakbara) is situated at the west end of Diu Island. This settlement began as a community of fishermen and eventually became the territory’s third biggest population cluster, after the city of Diu and Ghoghla. Saint Andrew’s Church was built around 1630; in 1774 a new fortification had to be built to defend the population. Built up during the last years of Portuguese rule, it spreads to the west of the church marking the community. The linear urban arrangement results from the association of the minimal house type, leading to a rather contained scale and architectural expression. It thus responds to the socio-cultural framing of its original community, and to the project’s economic limits. The singular urban unity of the Fishermen’s Quarter results from the streets running parallel to the beach, close to the sand. The sea is accessed by busy perpendicular bystreets; a common ground is used as an area for cleaning and drying fish. An elementary pier on stilts with a wooden boardwalk is used to access and moor boats. The social life linked to the sea nevertheless takes place on land, on the streets that naturally prolong the small narrow houses. People gather on the porches that protect against the elements, with the narrow entrance marking a compositional element repeated along the façade planes. This quarter recalls the pioneering fishermen’s neighbourhood in Olhão in southern Portugal, by the architect Carlos Ramos. We find similarities in the unity and urban composition, with a certain modernist bent, and also some details such as stairs at the end of streets for accessing the terraces, even though most houses have gable roofs. The walls of the Brancavara Quarter houses are raised using traditional technology on hand wrought sandstone blocks, mortared, coated and then white- washed. Strong pigmented colours are occasionally used. The roofs are on wooden frames protected by depressed ceramic tiles, forming a single surface that accentuates the horizontality of the whole. From the parish church’s forecourt one can see the size and urban organisation of the neighbourhood, as well as its distinct setting along the shore of the scattered urban area of Brancavara.