Symphonies in Stone and Concrete
From charismatic colonial buildings to cutting-edge contemporary structures, Mumbai is an architectural paradise.
Situated on the waterfront of Apollo Bunder, Mumbai’s splendid natural harbour, the Gateway is a great place to people watch, a favourite of locals, giant balloon hawkers and photographers alike.
Often referred to as India’s ‘City of Dreams’, commercial capital Mumbai is a rich kaleidoscope of architectural design. Primarily linear in its topography, as one traverses from south to north, the architecture represents a fascinating chronological footprint for globetrotters interested in the city’s rich history.
Thanks to its almost 200-year British rule, South Mumbai has a vivid dominance of colonial architecture in the form of Gothic, Indo-Saracenic and art deco buildings. It may come as a surprise that after Miami, Florida, Mumbai has the second largest collection of art deco buildings in the world and certainly some of the prettiest.
Previously a blue-collar residential area, today central Mumbai is filled with modern residential complexes, mammoth business parks and shopping areas vying for space with adjacent shanties. The stark visible contrast epitomises the sweeping changes associated with India’s independence. As Mumbai expanded northwards, its design style became progressively more stylized and contemporary.
Colonial South Mumbai
One of the most prominent tourist attractions in Mumbai is the Gateway of India - an arched yellow basalt and concrete monument built in the Indo-Saracenic style in the early 20th century to welcome King George V and Queen Mary. Situated on the waterfront of Apollo Bunder, Mumbai’s splendid natural harbour, the Gateway is a great place to people watch, a favourite of locals, giant balloon hawkers and photographers alike.
A stunning specimen of Gothic design worthy of its UNESCO heritage status is the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, formerly known as Victoria Terminus built in the Bori Bunder area in 1887 to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria. The area Marine Drive (or Queen’s necklace by night thanks to the long line of streetlamps curved like a necklace) is home to many art deco buildings, providing a real treat for architecture enthusiasts. The Indian art deco style evolved into a variant called Deco Saracenic combining Islamic and Hindu architectural styles.
Religious monuments in Mumbai are lovingly designed tributes to the respective faiths of the artisans and a symbol of various integrated communities. The iconic Haji Ali Mosque located on an islet about 500 metres off the coastline in Worli is a delightful example of Indo-Islamic craftsmanship. Both a mosque and a tomb, it was built with the same ‘Makrana’ marble used for the famous Taj Mahal and presents a wonderful sight lit up in the sea at night.
The Mount Mary Basilica in Bandra is another specimen of the gothic influence brought to Mumbai during British rule. Built of stone, the edifice is arguably not just the most beautiful church but also the most popular thanks to its annual Mount Mary Fair.
An embodiment of the Classic Revival style is the Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue, the oldest Sephardic synagogue in Mumbai. Most noticeable are its resplendent stained-glass windows reflecting strong Victorian influences. An easily recognizable powder blue edifice, this synagogue continues to serve as one of the main hubs for the local Jewish community.
An appealing vision in glass and concrete, One Indiabulls raised the bar (and also envy value!) for commercial buildings in and around Central Mumbai’s nerve centre, Parel, with two primary accolades to its credit. Firstly, of its two towers, Tower A leans 5.5 degrees more than the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Secondly, it claims space in the top 100 commercial buildings worldwide due to its LEED certification for green design.
By far one of the most outstanding contemporary design commercial buildings in Mumbai, The Capital in Bandra Kurla Complex is replete with a sky atrium and other amenities for the occupants including a gym and quaint cafes.