The architectural heritage of Mumbai is quiet synonyms with its famous street food ‘Bombay Bhel’. Like ‘bhel’- an impromptu mixture and layering of varied flavours and tastes; architecture here is a varied mixture of architectural styles.
Mumbai or more fondly known as ‘Bombay’ is known to have a rich architectural heritage with a lot of historical precincts and structures. People from all walks of their lives have adapted to the fast pace of this city and co-exist, rendering a varied and distinct cultural fabric to the city. With business always booming, the city became home to a lot of communities who brought along their authentic food, culture, language to the city with them; and with all these, also came the architectural heritage of Mumbai with its varied range of architectural styles. Here’s a detailed guide of some of these structures of historical significance.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus
Building type: Railway Terminus
Architectural style: Gothic revival
Architect: F. W. Stevens
Heritage of Bombay can never begin without the mention of this masterpiece. Designed by the British architect F. W. Stevens, this railway terminus depicts the Victorian Gothic Revival architecture in India, amalgamated with certain features of Indian architectural elements. Declared as a world heritage by the UNESCO, the structure today is more than just a railway terminus gathering a lot of tourist footfall every day. The architectural features like the projecting gargoyles, massive octagonal dome, extensive ornamentation of animal figurines on column capitals & spandrels, medallion portrait sculptures embedded into the facade, granite columns, wrought iron grills, arched doors & windows, etc. add a dramatic feature to the structure and to the skyline of Bombay. Moreover, intricate carvings of a peacock, floral carvings on the exteriors and on the arch casings and capitals show the fusion of Indian forms with gothic style.
EROS Cinemas, Cambata Building
Building type: Cinema Theatre / Assembly
Architectural style: Art Deco
Bang opposite the Churchgate railway station on the western line lies this art deco building adding quite a quirky and artistic element to the Bombay skyline since 1938.
Cambata building or popularly known as Eros cinemas showcases a series of art deco features with its ziggurat patterned structure, curved edges, pale cream and red Agra sandstone facade with a series of elongated windows. The interiors are adorned with grand marble staircases and chromium handrails, further adding to the list of art deco elements used.
Architect Shorabji Bhedwar designed the structure in such a way that the two wings with curved profile meet at the central block which rises vertically in a stepped pattern. Also, the vertical frames all over the façade help create a sense of motion, whereas the horizontal red bands break the monotony of these vertical bands. The relief work done on these red bands induces a sense of play.
Knesset Eliyahoo Synagogue
Building type: Religious place
Architectural style: Traditional Jewish, Gothic –Victorian,
Architect: Gostling& Morris
Restored by: Abha Narain Lambah Associates, Mumbai
Knesset Eliyahoo Synagogue, located in Bombay’s Art district Kala Ghoda is beautiful evidence of the architectural heritage of Mumbai. In 1884, the synagogue was built by Jacob Sassoon for the Baghdadi and the Benne Israeli Jewish communities residing in Bombay. The blue colour of the building makes it stand out to the rest of the structures in the Kala Ghoda precinct, branding it as a major tourist attraction.
The building features Corinthian columns, a triangular roof on the external facade, semi-circular and segmented fenestrations, and cast-iron panels. Moreover, the interior is as breath-taking as the exterior, adorned with Minton tiles, grapevine, religious symbols & motifs. The initial interior colour palette of light blue has now been restored to pale and sage green. This place is a must-visit for everyone wanting to experience the ‘Bombay’ in Mumbai.
Building type: Institutional/Government office
Architectural style: Indo- Saracenic
Architect: John Begg
GPO Building built-in 1904 used to be the postal headquarters for Mumbai and is now among the many structures that every Mumbaikar notice but fails to acknowledge.
Built-in black Kurla basalt stone and dressed in Malad yellow and white Dhrangdra stones, this structure is known for its massive Dome that till this date remains one of the largest in Mumbai. The architecture here is closely inspired by the Gol Gumbaz of Bijapur and has influences of Islamic as well as traditional Indian architecture.
This structure showcases a series of turrets and minarets inspired by Mughal architecture as well. GPO building, also regarded as ‘crowning glory’ of Mumbai is soon going witness a restoration process, thereby reinstating its glory and significance in the Mumbai skyline.
The Asiatic Society, State Central Library
Building type: Townhall, Library, Assembly
Architectural style: Neo-Classical
Designed by: Colonel Thomas Cowper
Built around 1833 along the lines of neoclassical architecture, this structure houses a central library, a museum and a stamp collector office. This white building has a grand flight of stairs, 30 to be precise and leads to a covered porch, often referred to as Grecian portico with a colonnade of eight Doric styled columns, supporting a Greek styled pediment. The architecture of the building gives an impression of the Parthenon style while being heavily influenced by the Roman & Greek styles of architecture.
The staircase of Asiatic society is probably a more famous place for Mumbaikars than the pubs, bars or parks. Sitting in the backdrop of its dreamy white building with a view of the bustling city and other heritage buildings of the vicinity- isn’t that perfect?
But that’s not all folks!
The architectural heritage of Mumbai is altogether a vast topic and Mumbai has such an amazing number of buildings that no blog post can do justice to it. You have to take a walk and explore to live the heritage of Bombay completely. Until then here’s a series of some of the other beautiful buildings of Bombay.
Sudarshan is a ‘Jack of all trades, but a master of fun’. Apart from being an Architect he has a flair for writing, manages family business & is now trying his hand at UX Design as well. He strongly believes that whatever one does in life, one must do it with passion & be happy with it.