The Rise of Art Deco in Oval Maidan, Mumbai

Oval Maidan stands witness to the city’s modernist line up of earliest Art Deco from Bombay of the 1930s

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

Reclaiming the backbay

Oval Maidan's iconic Art Deco line up was built on  reclaimed land post World War 1. The plan for this new development included elite private apartments with deep setbacks, low-height compound walls and wide avenues. Built on a similar scale, each was set back from the street and offered access to an open air terrace. The land was organised into a grid and developed into one of the densest assemblages of Art Deco anywhere in the world.

Archival photograph along the western edge of Oval MaidanArt Deco Mumbai

A new, modern style for Bombay

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, using emerging materials such as reinforced concrete, innovative construction technologies and fresh decorative themes, Art Deco transformed the look and feel of Bombay. The building style became a visual marker of modernity and a thriving port city's desire to be a counterpart to any other world metropolis. The Art Deco buildings at Oval Maidan were the city's finest modern residences.

Watercolour Illustration of Eros Cinema, Churchgate (2019/2019) by Shubhika MalaraArt Deco Mumbai

Pictured here is the water coloured rendering on paper of Eros Cinema.

Situated on a prominent corner plot, Eros Cinema was the only mixed-use building in the Art Deco development at Oval Maidan. With a commanding, V-shaped, form, its name displayed in distinct, Deco lettering and lit up in neon, Eros opened in 1938 as the city's most glamorous cinema hall.

Designed by Sohrabji Bhedwar, the building was partially clad with red Agra sandstone which contrasts with the light cream painted finish on the overall facade. With its dual colour scheme and stepped profile, Eros is reminiscent of a tiered cake. Its iconic, ziggurat-like tower continues to mark the beginning of the Deco development at Oval.

Front View of Rajjab Mahal, Oval Maidan (2019/2019)Art Deco Mumbai

At Rajjab Mahal, the flamboyant, 'Jazz Queen' of the city, the facade is a celebration of geometric motifs in wood, metal and coloured cement.

Window detail of Rajjab Mahal, Oval Maidan (2019/2019)Art Deco Mumbai

Particular highlights include the angled grill work in the windows, and a unique decorative rising sun motif, which drew inspiration from the geometry of Ancient Egyptian art!

View of the stairwell in Empress Court, Oval Maidan (2019/2019)Art Deco Mumbai

A top down view of the stunning oval shaped teak wood staircase at Empress Court.

Street view of Shiv Shanti Bhuvan, Oval Maidan (2019/2019)Art Deco Mumbai

At Shiv Shanti Bhavan, the vertical banding, chajjas, cantilevered balconies and geometric motifs are defined and highlighted with the use of a bright, dual colour tone. With its distinct chajjas protecting the interiors from the harsh glare of the sun the building is referred to as the 'Eyebrow Queen' of Mumbai!

View of stairwell in Court View, Oval Maidan (2019/2019)Art Deco Mumbai

Court View's gorgeous interiors sport silver metal grills as staircase bannisters and colourful terrazzo tile flooring on each floor landing.

Detail view of the flooring at Court View, Oval Maidan (2019/2019)Art Deco Mumbai

The first floor of Court View welcomes you with a beautiful customised terrazzo flooring in bold and vibrant colours and clean geometric lines. Notice the alphabet R introduced into this abstract artwork. Orginally called Rusi Court this personalisation pays an ode to the original owner of this building.

Detail view of Belvedere Court, Oval Maidan (2019/2019)Art Deco Mumbai

Belvedere Court features a unique, frozen fountain motif in its window grills. Window grills in cement or metal offered privacy and ventilation, letting in light and air, but keeping out the sun's glare.

Windows of Court View, Oval Maidan (2019/2019)Art Deco Mumbai

The frozen fountain is a defining feature in the building's ornamentation and showcased here in the window grill. Court View's window grills reflect harmony in design.

Archival photograph of Empress Court, Oval MaidanArt Deco Mumbai

Empress Court was designed by Gajanan B. Mhatre, 20th century Bombay's most prolific, if under-recognised, Deco architect.

The structure's elongated form and curved contours were influenced by the sleek, streamlined designs of contemporary automobiles - indicative of speed, power and movement.

Empress Court's owners, now the fourth generation, still live in this building.

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

The ICOMOS Report on Victorian Gothic & Art Deco Ensembles for UNESCO's World Heritage Committee, June 2018 mentions, "The Art Deco buildings are one of the largest and most homogenous assemblages of Art Deco buildings in
Asia and the world."

The Deco at the Oval is part of the Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensemble of Mumbai, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A central focus of the inscription is the Oval (park), a unique site of contrast and conversation between the city's 19th century Victorian Gothic and 20th century Art Deco heritage.

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

To know more visit the exhibit on the World Heritage Site.

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

This comprehensive map showcases each building within the World Heritage precinct, and further indicates Oval Maidan's central position (depicted in green). The distinct architectural styles are depicted in different colours.

Marine Drive
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 aerial photograph of Oval Maidan and the surrounding buildings to Jehangir Sorabjee. All the remaining images are from Art Deco Mumbai’s archive.

To see the entire Oval Maidan ensemble #WHSOVAL

To know more visit UNESCO World Heritage Site

Read more on Art Deco in Mumbai: Oval and Marine Drive

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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