Mumbai's Kanchanjunga Apartments Uniquely Blend Modernism With Indian Sensibilities

Kanchanjunga Apartments
Kanchanjunga Apartments Charles Correa

The Kanchanjunga Apartments, located in the heart of Mumbai, India, is a landmark residential building designed by renowned architect Charles Correa. The building, completed in 1983, stands tall at 85 metres with 28 stories and is a shining example of modernist and brutalist architecture in India. The apartments are a direct response to the present culture, the escalating urbanization, and the climatic conditions for the region. They pay homage to the vernacular architecture that once stood on the site before the development in a number of ways.

Located South-West of downtown Mumbai in an upscale suburban setting, The building was oriented east-west to catch prevailing sea breezes and views out to the Arabian sea on ones side and the harbour on the other. Unfortunately, these are also the directions of the hot sun and the heavy monsoon rains.

To counter this, Charles opted to employ the concept of a bungalow by encircling the primary living areas with a shielded verandah. Upon exploring this idea further, he recognized that an alternative approach would be to transform the verandah or buffer zone into a garden that not only served as a defence against the sun and rain but also flourished in such conditions. By integrating both climatic factors and vistas, he ultimately selected a design of interconnected units that faced the east and west.

The Kanchanjunga Apartments, Charles Correa
The Kanchanjunga Apartments, Charles CorreaArch Daily, GQ

The Kanchanjunga is almost completely made of cement concrete, structurally reinforced by steel. The large areas of white-painted panels with plaster finish bear a strong resemblance to modern apartment buildings in the West, perhaps due to Correa's Western education. However, the garden terraces of the Kanchanjunga Apartments are actually a modern interpretation of a feature of the traditional Indian bungalow: the veranda.

Even though Charles Correa was schooled in the West, he was not interested in International Style Modernism during his career always placing a higher value on traditional or vernacular architecture and working towards his design language that articulated an Indian sensibility. He focused a lot on the relationship between climate, material, and culture, making his designs timeless and still relevant as we approach the future.