“Please find us a Portuguese Villa in Goa?”

A “Portuguese” villa in Goa remains one of the most-popular requests from our clientele.

That’s understandable, because the legacy of Portuguese colonialism continues to loom large on Goa’s constructed landscape – in both residential and religious buildings. Architecturally speaking, Goa just looks different from the rest of Western India, and properties in Goa are some of the most unique in the entire country.
However, to call the villas that you see in Goa ‘Portuguese’ is actually a misnomer. In fact, according to author Paulo Gomes, “the houses built in Goa by upper- and middle-class Catholic landowners in the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries constitute an extraordinarily coherent and distinct current in the panorama of housing around the world… how can these homes be ‘Portuguese’ if they “exist nowhere in any town or village in Portugal, Brazil, or Portuguese-influenced Africa?” The truth is “they are solely Goan.”

These much sought-after Goan villas are in fact ‘Portuguese-influenced Goan Catholic’ villas, or at least “Indo-Portugese” villas – not simply ‘Portuguese’ villas.

According to renowned Goan architect Raya Shankhwalker:
“Ill-informed brokers have coined the term (Portuguese villa) , which reflects a deeply ignorant conception of the complex, multi-layered evolution of architecture in Goa… the use of local materials, crafts and skills make the Western-influenced Goan house a unique architectural expression.”

Goa’s Architectural History

Goa’s oldest temple: Tambdi Surla Mahadev Mandir

Goa’s oldest temple: Tambdi Surla Mahadev Mandir. Image via Nomadographer

The history of architecture in Goa is actually far more nuanced, diverse, and complex than may initially meet the eye. Architecture in Goa reflects the stage’s cultural, political, historical, and socioeconomic influences. Goa has been ruled by various powers over the centuries, each of which has left their mark on the architectural landscape of the state.

The early history of Goa is marked by the influence of the Kadamba Dynasty, who ruled the area from the 4th to the 13th century. Their architectural legacy can be seen in the numerous temples and shrines, many of which feature unique architectural styles and intricate carvings.

With the arrival of the Portuguese in the 16th century, Goa began to experience a fusion of architectural styles. The Portuguese brought with them the architectural styles of their homeland, such as the Manueline and Mudéjar styles, which can be seen in the many churches and cathedrals built during this period. Notable examples include the Se Cathedral, Church of St. Cajetan and The Convent and Church of St. Francis of Assisi.

During the colonial period, the Portuguese also introduced the Indo-Portuguese (or Goan Catholic) style, which combined elements of traditional Indian and Portuguese architecture. This style can be seen in many of the state’s grand villas, government buildings and public spaces.

However, an under-appreciated aspect of Goa’s villa landscape is the Goan Hindu Courtyard house. This style is notable for the central internal courtyard feature.

Goan Hindu Courtyard Houses

Goan Hindu Courtyard Houses. Image via Paul Fernandes

Examples of Portuguese-influenced Villas in Goa

For a detailed understanding of the history and evolution of Goan homes, we suggest visiting the Houses of Goa Museum in Porvorim. a memorable structure in its own right. Here are some examples of the Portuguese-influenced Goan Catholic style – some of which you can visit, and even stay at! The Goan Catholic villa style features prominent decorative facades, balcãos (porches) featuring inbuilt seats called sopos, intricate windows, and vaulted, tiled roofs.

The Braganza House, located in Chandor, South Goa. Built in the 17th century.

Braganza House, Chandor, South Goa

Braganza House, Chandor, South Goa. Image via Flickr (username FabIndia)

Vivenda dos Palhaços, located in Majorda, South Goa. Built in the 20th century.

Casa Robello, located in Anjuna, North Goa. Built in the 16th Century

Casa Robello, located in Anjuna, North Goa

Casa Robello, located in Anjuna, North Goa. Image via D’source

Panjim Inn, located in Fontainhas, Panjim, North Goa. Built in the 19th Century

Panjim Inn, Fountainhas. Image by Kuni Takahashi for The New York Times

Panjim Inn, Fountainhas. Image by Kuni Takahashi for The New York Times

Modern Goan Architecture

After India’s independence from British rule in 1947, Goa became a Union Territory. This period was marked by a new phase of development and modernization. Architects began to experiment with contemporary styles, and notable examples include the Goa Medical College and the Kala Academy. Goa did not become a state until 1987.

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in preserving and revitalizing Goa’s historical and cultural heritage. Many of the state’s traditional architectural styles and buildings are being restored and repurposed to suit modern needs, while also preserving their historical and cultural significance.

Today, Goa is also home to some stunning modern villas – which some day may be considered worthy additions to Goa’s architectural history and legacy. Modern villas in Goa include contemporary design techniques that bring air and light into the interior spaces (traditional Goan houses were dark to prevent heat gain), while preserving traditional building materials such as laterite.

Two such examples are:

The Earth House, Siolim, North Goa, designed by Studio SAV

Earth House, Siolim by Studio SAV

Earth House, Siolim by Studio SAV. Photo by Fabien Charuau, via Arch Daily

The Glass Villa, Aldona, North Goa, designed by Sameep Padora and Tarun Tahiliani

The Glass Villa, Aldona, designed by Sameep Padora and Tarun Tahiliani

The Glass Villa, Aldona, designed by Sameep Padora and Tarun Tahiliani. Photo by Ashish Sahi for Architectural Digest India

The history of architecture in Goa is rich and diverse, reflecting the state’s cultural and historical influences, the architectural legacy varies from ancient Hindu temples, unique Portuguese churches and chapels, grand villas and colonial buildings, to contemporary and modern villas. The blend of different styles and cultures make Goa a unique place, with a fascinating architectural heritage, both past and present.

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Last modified: July 20, 2023

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