The peculiar structure of Houses of Goa Museum aspires to exhibit Goa’s way of life long ago before the Portuguese rule ceased in 1961. The triangular building itself structurally looks like a ship, with four levels, each having unique themes, interconnected by unique spiral staircases. Each part of the traditional colonial-period house – from the doors and oyster shell-shaped windows, carved railings, furniture, masonry to ceramic tiling- are put together to emphasize construction processes and architectural style changes.
Owned by renowned architect Gerard de Cunha, Houses of Goa is a unique museum that combines the phenomenal result of the amalgamation of Western and Eastern architectural styles. According to de Cunha, when the Portuguese conquered Goa, they also brought their own architectural designs and it made a huge impact on the already-existing traditional Goan architecture. As such, a fusion of Portuguese and Goan architecture emerged. De Cunha even added that the architectural style used in Goan houses is seen neither in Portugal nor anywhere else in the world, only in Goa.
One of the most extraordinary architectural triumphs one should not miss in Goa, the museum is built using cost-effective technology. Known as Gerard’s traffic island, the structure’s vertices were purposely cut on the ground floor to accommodate a smooth flow of traffic. Using volcanic laterite stones, the museum rises with the walls corbelling out, resembling an ark. The ground floor consists of the reception area, a café and the toilet. It is also a semi-museum with photo exhibits of bathrooms and kitchens of various Goan houses. Using 3D effect technology, people can enjoy a virtual journey inside.
The second floor is called ‘Goa in the Context of the World of Domestic Architecture’ and goes on to showcase the wealth of architectural style and design in Goa. This mini-museum is utterly rich with pictures and sketches of ancient Goan houses, historical pictorials that dated back 1900 and the various types of colonia-era houses (i.e Miranda house, Kelekar house, Deshprabu house). On the third level, you can find a balcony and a mini-museum displaying the details of Goan houses, from the materials, construction, furniture, interiors and climate. Inside is the collection of carved pillars, eccentric window designs, false ceilings, and tiles. The attic floor houses a 35-seater auditorium that has regular slideshows for visitors to get a glimpse of Goan houses. It presents some of the contemporary Goan house designs including Helder-Carita, Casa de Zobrado and more.
Looking around Houses of Goa, the general atmosphere is enjoyable, enchanting, and romantic. The house is also filled with soft music played while studying Gerard’s detailed descriptions of the exhibits. Gerard also released a book called ‘Houses of Goa’ that highlights nearly 150 Goan houses that were made prior to the invasion of Portuguese. It explains how the houses are built in mud and other simple materials and how it fits their quaint lifestyle.
Located in Torda, Salvador do Mundo, Goa, the quirky Houses of Goa museum is about 5 kilometers away from Panaji and lies in the middle of a traffic island. It is easily reached by auto rickshaw or taxi. If you use your own car, drive north over the Bridge of Mandovi and continue until you reach Alto-Porvorim Circle. From there, turn right at O’Coqueiro junction, then left at the fork, and you will find it there.