Architecture is so much more than mere structural design for senior architect Bruno Dias Souza. It is an experience.
His own house in Altinho, Panaji, is testament to this. Large openings, no interior walls except in bedrooms, and greenery visible from various angles in the house allow the family to appreciate the space inside as well as the outdoors.
This interplay within isn’t visible from the house’s exterior and that’s the way he wanted it to be. “I build houses for people to live in, not simply to admire from the outside. Window dressing is completely unnecessary and is destroying the character of cities and villages,” he says.
The Columbia University and Harvard University alumnus, who has served as director of the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi, and advisor and consultant for the World Bank and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), grew up in Badem, Salvador do Mundo, building models of boats and little houses as a child.
Souza, who will turn 91 next month, studied at the Liceo Nacional Afonso de Albuquerque before moving to Dharwad and Bombay for inter-science and a stint in mathematics and physics as part of the BSc programme at St Xavier’s College.
Following his undergraduation and postgraduation in the US, he worked with a number of international firms in central as well as South America before returning to Goa, where he designed government primary and secondary schools.
Souza recalls the then Portuguese governor, General Vassalo e Silva, insisting on excellent toilet facilities in schools even if these had just two classrooms. Some of the projects didn’t see the light of day after the Liberation of Goa in 1961. On Silva’s request for low-cost housing for government staff, Souza also designed the government colony complex at Patto, Panaji, which was executed by the public works department (PWD).
He moved to Delhi and set up his practice while lecturing at the Indian Institute of Technology and the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi, as visiting professor.
As an international civil servant of the United Nations and project architect of the World Bank, Souza worked on several projects, including vocational training and educational centres in Sudan, Vietnam, Liberia, Republic of Cape Verde and Republic of Guinea.
He returned to Delhi as director of the School of Planning and Architecture (1983-88), turning down lucrative offers in universities abroad soon after, to settle down in Goa.
Souza, who was recently conferred with the prestigious Socio Honorario-Ordem Dos Arquitectos in Portugal, admits his professional career didn’t take the turn he desired in Goa. His enthusiasm to work in the state soon turned into frustration.
Two competitions he won for his designs of the Goa high court complex and the Goa assembly building complex gave him a taste of the ways of the government after they handed over the projects to others.
A study/proposal on conservation of Fontainhas, which he worked on, got international recognition but wasn’t followed up in the state.
Souza, who continues to work to this day, is married to Edna Miranda Souza, a social worker whose focus is special education. The couple have four children Nisha, Maya, Marcel and Claude.