Imagine a lush green cricket field in the heart of one of the busiest commercial capitals in the world, surrounded by a fully intact urban conglomeration of finest Neo-Gothic architecture facing another set of fine art deco collections.
The Fort Heritage Precinct in Mumbai is the only such neighborhood on this planet with huge ensembles of 19th Century Gothic architecture and 20th century art deco styles (and Indo-Saracen revival architectural style). A walk down this neighborhood has always left me impressed as architectural details ooze out the richness of the history, culture, amalgamation of styles and pride- A very well maintained urban space which hardly had any interference of real estate. The imposing Gothic structures are mostly buildings owned by the government, hasn’t seen any form alterations on its exteriors; on the contrary the minor additions of the art deco residential neighborhood, has been in the form of addition of aluminum alloy windows and glazed glass covered balconies, apart from that the integrity has been very well maintained. Thanks to the constant vigil of the heritage body and their strict laws. All this pays off as Mumbai holds a great chance ahead of the historic city of Delhi and Ahmadabad which are shortlisted for nominations to be recognized as the world heritage site.
So what really sets apart Mumbai is synthesis of different architectural idioms in which Gothic and later Art deco predominated distinctly. Moreover these structures have still retained the integrity and have been well monitored and maintained.
After the British took possession of Bombay in Mid seventieth century and made it their trading outpost, they fortified the largest existing structure and called it Bombay Castle. The old fort walls were torn down in the 1860s and replaced with neo-Gothic architecture. This led to a spread of influence inspired by Gothic style. Due to flourishing trade and the opening of the Suez Canal, Mumbai prospered and became a melting pot of trade and business in Asia. Hence, the history of Mumbai steeped in its commerce; commerce that usually is symbolized under the cloak of imposing architecture representing the powers that be. The Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (Victoria Terminus), the BMC building, Asiatic Library, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (formerly the Prince of Wales Museum), the Mumbai University building along with the Rajabai Tower are examples of some of the finest heritage buildings built during the British era and were heavily influenced by the Victorian-Gothic architecture style. On the other hand a new generation of Indian architects returning from Europe built the Art Deco buildings in the early 20th century, using technology such as reinforced concrete for the first time.
Both the Victorian Gothic and Art Deco architectural forms have had Indian influences. The Neo gothic became a fusion of Indo Gothic with alterations according to the local climate – inclusion of open verandas and large windows as we can see in the high court building.
Whereas geometric window grills matched with the window pane dividers, coastal motifs, external mouldings and, of course, the bold colour schemes are typical of the Art Deco style. This made Mumbai’s art deco district, the second largest in the world after Miami.
Vote for Mumbai! 🙂