Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensembles of Mumbai

N18 55 47.3 E72 49 48.3
Date of Inscription: 2018
Criteria: (ii)(iv)
Property : 66.34 ha
Buffer zone: 378.78 ha
Ref: 1480
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Having become a global trading centre, the city of Mumbai implemented an ambitious urban planning project in the second half of the 19th century. It led to the construction of ensembles of public buildings bordering the Oval Maidan open space, first in the Victorian Neo-Gothic style and then, in the early 20th century, in the Art Deco idiom. The Victorian ensemble includes Indian elements suited to the climate, including balconies and verandas. The Art Deco edifices, with their cinemas and residential buildings, blend Indian design with Art Deco imagery, creating a unique style that has been described as Indo-Deco. These two ensembles bear testimony to the phases of modernization that Mumbai has undergone in the course of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Two waves of urban development of Mumbai in the 19th and 20th centuries transformed the city from a fortified trading outpost to the first city of India. The first expansion included the construction in the 1880s of a group of Victorian Gothic public buildings and the creation of the Oval Maidan.

The second expansion was the Backbay Reclamation Scheme in the early 20th century, which offered a new opportunity for Bombay to expand to the west with Art Deco residential, commercial and entertainment buildings and the creation of the Marine Drive sea front.

Today the Oval Maidan offers a spectacular ensemble of Victorian Gothic buildings on its eastern side, and another impressive ensemble of Art Deco buildings on its western side as a testimony to the modernization phases that Mumbai went through leading to a modern independent India in 1947.

Criterion (ii): Both the Victorian Gothic and the Art Deco ensembles exhibit an important exchange of European and Indian human values over a span of time. The Victorian assemblage of grand public buildings created an Indo-Gothic style by blending Gothic revival elements with Indian elements, with adaptations in response to the local climate by introducing balconies and verandas. Mumbai’s Art Deco buildings of iconic cinema halls and apartment buildings blended Indian design with Art Deco imagery and created a unique style that became known as Indo-Deco. Its influence spread through the Indian sub-continent.

Criterion (iv): The Victorian Gothic and Art Deco ensembles reflect the developments in architecture and urban planning over two centuries. The two ensembles represent architectural styles, phases in the advancements of construction materials and techniques, urban planning philosophies, and historical phases which are distinctive and facing each other across the Oval Maidan. Both ensembles are the creation of the two major urban expansions of Bombay, which led to the development of the city to become the internationally important mercantile city of the twentieth century and up to the present.

Suggested Bases:

From Bom Bahia,literally meaning “The Good bay” was actually named by portuguese explorer Francis Almeida. Mumbai is named after goddess Mumba devi of the koli community. Mumbai (Marathi: मुंबई) (state tourism office), a cosmopolitan metropolis, earlier known as Bombay, is the largest city in India and the capital of the state Maharashtra. Mumbai was originally a conglomeration of seven islands on the Konkan coastline which over time were joined to form the island city of Bombay. The island was in turn joined with the neighbouring island of Salsette to form Greater Bombay. The city has an estimated metropolitan population of 21 million (2005), making it one of the world’s most populous cities. Mumbai is undoubtedly the commercial capital of India and is one of the predominant port cities in the country. Mumbai’s nature as the most eclectic and cosmopolitan Indian city is symbolized in the presence of Bollywood. [read more]

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