Highlights tour of a World Heritage Site in Mumbai

On June 30, 2018, following a decade long, citizen-led effort, the Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensembles of South Mumbai were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Aerial view of Wellington Circle, MumbaiOriginal Source: Jehangir Sorabjee Archive

The inscription serves to protect, enhance and showcase a spectacular massing of 92 historic buildings in 4 significant architectural styles - Victorian Gothic, Indo-Saracenic, Neo-Classical and Art Deco - within a vibrant and living historic city centre. Wellington Circle, pictured here in the centre, is the only site in Mumbai where all 4 styles may be seen together, in conversation.

Wellington Circle

The Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensemble of Mumbai (India): ICOMOS Report Quote on Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensemble of MumbaiArt Deco Mumbai

Art Deco buildings along Marine Drive (2019/2019)Original Source: Jehangir Sorabjee Archive

A central focus of the inscription is South Mumbai's Art Deco, one of the largest, most homogenous assemblages in Asia and the world. Built along Marine Drive, the city's western boundary, the buildings represent a critical phase of urban expansion in early 20th century Bombay.

Archival photograph along the western edge of Oval MaidanArt Deco Mumbai

A new, modern style 

With Art Deco, came modernity and international design. A modern Bombay of cinemas, hotels, office buildings and apartment blocks - the city’s earliest - conceived for the first time by a new generation of Indian architects trained in Bombay and in the West, and drawing inspiration from everywhere! Patronised and built by the city's business and industrial elite through the 1930's and 40's. Art Deco transformed the look and feel of Bombay. Pictured here is an archival image of the Art Deco precinct at Oval Maidan. 

Marine Drive: View of promenade (2019/2019)Art Deco Mumbai

Even today, a stretch of 35 sea-facing Art Deco buildings continues to define Marine Drive, the city's iconic western face. Popularly referred to as the Queen's Necklace, and fronted by the city's most public promenade, the boulevard is arguably Mumbai's most powerful and recognised image.

Marine Drive

Street view of Soona Mahal, Mumbai (2017/2017)Art Deco Mumbai

Prominently situated on a corner plot on Marine Drive with a commanding view of the Arabian Sea, its dual toned, streamlined form crowned by a circular viewing gallery, Soona Mahal is the gold standard in Mumbai's Art Deco landscape. Built in 1937, Soona Mahal was designed by Suvernpatki and Vora with consulting architect Gajanan B. Mhatre, 20th century Bombay's most prolific, if under-recognised, Deco architect.

Soona Mahal

Street view of Empress Court, Oval Maidan (2019/2019)Art Deco Mumbai

Facing the iconic Rajabai Clocktower across Oval Maidan, Empress Court was also designed by Mhatre. Like Soona Mahal, Empress Court's owners, now the fourth generation, still live in this building.

Art Deco buildings along Oval Maidan

Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensembles of MumbaiOriginal Source: Jehangir Sorabjee Archive

At the heart of the precinct, the iconic Oval Maidan, a public ground, is witness to a unique conversation between a modernist line up of Art Deco (in background) and towering Gothic monuments (in foreground). Deco marked the optimism and global cosmopolitanism of early 20th century Bombay while Gothic proclaimed the city's rise to global prominence in the late 19th century.

The Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensemble of Mumbai (India): ICOMOS Report Quote on Architectural styles along the Oval MaidanArt Deco Mumbai

Bombay High Court along Oval MaidanOriginal Source: Jehangir Sorabjee Archive

Pictured here across the Oval is the Bombay High Court, completed in the Gothic style in the 1870's.

The High Court is flanked by two towers, the Reserve Bank of India building (left) and the Bombay Stock Exchange (right). This area is a commercial and banking hub. In the background, the bustling dockyards can be seen. The port heralded the commercial development of the city.

Oval Maidan, MumbaiOriginal Source: Noshir Gobhai Archives

Pictured here are the High Court and University buildings along the Oval Maidan. These buildings were grand public architecture communicating imperial control. They also signified Bombay's rise to prominence in the late 19th century. By the early 20th century, these buildings were no longer in vogue.

Instead, a modern thriving port city built on private enterprise, reclaimed its urban space through cutting edge construction designed on a more human scale, by people, for people.

University of Mumbai ComplexOriginal Source: Noshir Gobhai Archives

Designed by Ar. Sir George Gilbert Scott, the University Library and Clocktower, pictured here, was funded by prominent Bombay businessman Premchand Roychand. At 72 meters high, it was intended to be the tallest structure in Bombay. Built by local builders and craftsmen, with design inputs from students of the Sir Jamshedji Jeejeebhoy School of Art (then the Bombay School of Art), the Victorian ensemble of public buildings at Oval Maidan represents a unique blend of European Gothic and local design, celebrated as Bombay Gothic.

The Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensemble of Mumbai (India): ICOMOS Report Quote on Victorian Gothic Ensemble of the UNESCO World Heritage SiteArt Deco Mumbai

Front View of Maharashtra Police Headquarter, Mumbai (2019/2019)Art Deco Mumbai

The precinct's listed buildings include the Royal Alfred Sailor's Home, today's Maharashtra State Police Headquarters, at Wellington Circle. Built between 1872 - 76 to house 78 seamen, the Sailors' Home was designed by F W Stevens using locally available, high quality, stone in an early or 'domestic' Gothic style. Stevens is best remembered for his later Bombay Gothic masterpiece, Victoria Terminus railway station.

Front view of Regal Cinema (2019/2019)Art Deco Mumbai

Across the road, Regal Cinema, the first Art Deco building of the city, opened to public viewing in 1933. Designed by Charles Stevens, son of F W Stevens, it was built in reinforced concrete using the latest construction technology. Regal Cinema rose in confident contrast to his father's Gothic adaptation in stone, built for a colonial government.

Front View of CSMVS, Mumbai (2019/2019)Art Deco Mumbai

Wellington Circle is also home to the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS), formerly the Prince of Wales Museum, completed in 1914 in the Indo-Saracenic style. Designed by George Wittet, consulting architect to the Government of Bombay from 1907, the CSMVS combined recognisable Hindu and Islamic features into a new architectural idiom which rivaled the earlier Gothic style in scale, form and sculptural exuberance.

Buildings in Fort precinct, MumbaiOriginal Source: Jehangir Sorabjee Archive

Wittet also designed the sprawling Institute of Science, built concurrently across the road along Wellington Circle, in a western Renaissance Revival style. The building is seen in the left bottom corner of this image with its prominent white corner dome.

The Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensemble of Mumbai (India): ICOMOS Report Quote on Architectural expression within the UNESCO World Heritage SiteArt Deco Mumbai

Stakeholders of The Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensemble of Mumbai (2019/2019)Art Deco Mumbai

The unique, decade-long effort to list Mumbai's Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensembles as a UNESCO World Heritage Site was spearheaded by the stakeholders and citizens pictured here.

(From Top Left to Bottom Right) Nayana Kathpalia (OCRA), Shirin Bharucha (OVAL Trust), Pankaj Joshi (UDRI), Cyrus Guzder (UDRI), Atul Kumar (ADMT), Swarn Kohli (NPCCA) and Abha Narain Lambah (not in picture). The stakeholder organisations are:- OVAL Trust, Kala Ghoda Association (KGA), Art Deco Mumbai Trust (ADMT), Oval Cooperage Residents Association (OCRA), Nariman Point Churchgate Citizen's Associations (NPCCA), Urban Design Research Institute (UDRI) and Federation of Residents Trust (FORT).

Short Film on Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensembles of Mumbai, UNESCO World Heritage Site (2019/2019) by Federation of Residents Trust (FORT)Art Deco Mumbai

Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensembles of Mumbai (2019/2019)Art Deco Mumbai

Map showcasing inscribed buildings within the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

To know more watch the Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensembles of Mumbai.

Credits: Story

Art Deco Mumbai showcases Mumbai’s Art Deco, advocates its conservation, chronicles its history, documents neighbourhoods and has created the only online repository dedicated to Mumbai’s Deco buildings. Photo Credits for all aerial photographs to Jehangir Sorabjee. Photo Credits for photographs of High Court and University Library to Noshir Gobhai. All the remaining images are from Art Deco Mumbai’s archive.

To see the entire deco ensemble type #WHS #WHSOVAL #WHSMARINEDRIVE

To know more visit UNESCO World Heritage Site

Explore the Art Deco Mumbai Gallery

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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