Architecture of Mumbai

Architecture of Mumbai

The architecture of Mumbai blends Gothic, Victorian, Art Deco, Indo-Saracenic and contemporary architectural styles. Many buildings, structures and historical monuments remain from the colonial era. Mumbai, after Miami, has the second largest number of Art Deco buildings in the world

Gothic and Victorian architecture

Bombay Architecture came to be present through the British in the 18th and early 19th centuries. At first it was the neo-Classical style of architecture, but then a new style came to exist, one that reflected modern European fashions: Gothic Architecture. Where The Classical has an orderly monochromatic presence, the Gothic style is expressive, disjointed with surfaces of lives colors, beautified with carved and narrative elements, consisting of flying buttresses, lancet windows and stained glass. At first, due to the immense freed space it obtained, Gothic building only served as churches, as religious buildings built by people of the 11th century. However, soon enough there came a need for public halls, parliament houses, mansions, and the Gothic era was the solution. Indian architects came to analyze this style and represent it and put it into play in relation with the climate, and in relation to society’s plans and sensibilities. This style, the blend of Gothic and contemporary styles, is what came to be known as “Bombay Gothic.”


Rajabai Tower

The Rajabai Tower in South Mumbai is located in the confines of the Fort campus of the University of Mumbai. It was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, an English architect, and was modelled on Big Ben, the clock tower of the United Kingdom’s houses of Parliament in London. The foundation stone was laid on 1 March 1869 and construction was completed in November 1878. The tower stands at a height of 85 m (280 ft) and at the time it was the tallest building in India. The tower fuses Venetian and Gothic styles. It is built out of the locally available buff coloured Kurla stone and stained glass.

A file photo of University of Mumbai taken in the 1870s. Rajabai Clock Tower here seen shrouded in scaffolding was completed in 1878
The ground floor has two side rooms, each measuring 56 × 27.5 ft (17 × 8.5 m). The tower forms a carriage porch 2.4 m² (26 ft²), and a spiral staircase vestibule of 2.6 m² (28 ft²). The Tower, over the carriage porch, has a square form up to the gallery at the top of the first level which is at a height of 68 feet (20.7 m) from the ground.[5] The form changes from a square to an octagon and the height from this gallery to the top of the tower is 118 feet (36 m) and the third stage to the top of the finial is 94 feet (28.7 m), thus making a total height of 280 feet (85 m).

Indo-Saracenic

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya interior
The Indo-Saracenic style developed in the second half of the 19th century, combining Islamic and Hindu architectural styles with its characteristic domes, arches, stained glasses, spires, and minarets. The Gateway of India and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya are good examples of this architectural type in the city.

Gateway of India


The Gateway of India is one of the major monuments in the city, located in the Apollo Bunder area in South Mumbai. It is a distinct 26 metres (85 ft) high arch built from yellow basalt and reinforced concrete. Many elements of the arch are derived from the Muslim architectural styles of 16th century Gujarat, the pillars are derived from the design of Hindu temples and the design of the Gateway’s windows derive from Islamic architecture.

The Gateway of India was built to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to Bombay, prior to the Delhi Durbar, in December 1911. The foundation stone was laid on 31 March 1911, by Governor of Bombay Sir George Sydenham Clarke, and the final design of George Wittet was sanctioned in August 1914. The foundations were completed in 1920, and construction was finished in 1924.

The building got the name the Gateway of India, because in the colonial era the Europeans entered India from this location, it was normally the first thing they would see while entering the country.

Art Deco

The Deco period began in 1910 when Art Nouveau slid out of fashion. Art deco’s linear symmetry was a distinct departure from the flowing asymmetrical organic curves of its predecessor style art nouveau. Art Deco is an eclectic style and designers drew inspiration from many sources. Artifacts from Ancient Egypt and Greece, Meso-America, Africa, Japan and China that had all been influential. Cubism, Orphism, Futurism and Constructivism provided an abstract, geometric language that was quickly assimilated into the Deco style and the high styles of European tradition continued to provide inspiration. Art Deco had a unique impact in America, especially in Manhattan. Skyscrapers, such as the Chrysler Building in New York, became icons of the new style, while jazz became the music of the city. The popularity of Hollywood films did much to promote Art Deco to an international audience worldwide.

Art Deco in Mumbai

Art Deco is one of Mumbai’s least noticed architectural styles, though Mumbai and its suburbs possibly have the largest number of Art Deco buildings in the world.Art Deco in India (and especially in Mumbai) evolved into a unique style that came to be called Deco-Saracenic. Essentially, it was a combination of the Islamic and the Hindu architectural styles. The main features of the Indo Saracenic Style were the construction of domes, arches, spires, stained glasses and minarets. The interiors have Victorian influences while the exterior was Indian. Deco details touch every architectural aspect – lamps, flooring, wood panelling, lifts, railings and grills, muntins, chajjias or weather shades, plinth copings and mouldings, cornices, verandahs and balconies, bronze and stainless steel fittings, brackets, etched glass, ornamental sculptures that extended to names carved out in giant letters, facades that are very airy and built in stepped -back style, etc. Mumbai’s Art Deco stands out not only because it uses the easy blend of Deco-Saracenic but also because architects have used a variety of materials to express design freely. For instance, many buildings have been constructed entirely out of reinforced cement concrete but has a facing of Malad stone. Bharat Tiles, India’s oldest tile manufacturers, also played an integral part in the shaping of Art Deco interiors. Some of the most visited architectural sites in Mumbai are: • The Mahalakshmi Temple • The Jahangir Art Gallery • The High Court • The General Post Office • The Flora Fountain • Regal Cinema

Eros Cinema

Metro Cinema now Metro Adlabs Cinema
Art Deco architecture in Mumbai developed during the 1930s and produced distinctly angular shaped buildings with facades. Mumbai has the second largest number of Art Deco buildings in the world. The Art Deco style is also extremely popular amongst various Cinema halls that sprung up in the early to mid 20th Century including Metro Cinema, Eros Cinema, Liberty Cinema and even Regal Cinema. Eros Cinema is a typical art deco building, designed by architect Sohrabji Bhedwar. The foundation of Eros Cinema was laid in 1935. The cinema opened in 1938 and construction of this building on the then newly reclaimed Backbay plot housing shops and other businesses, apart from the cinema, took about two and a half years to complete. Partially faced with red Agra sandstone, this building is painted cream. The two wings of this Art Deco building meet up in a central block. The foyer is in white and black marble with touches of gold. Marble staircases with chromium handrails lead up to the upper floor. The murals are in muted colours depicting Indian architectures.

The Metro Adlabs Cinema, located on Mahatma Gandhi Road, at Dhobitalao Junction is also a good example of the Art Deco style of architecture that appeared in the 1930s in the city. The Metro Cinema opened on 8 June 1938 and was designed by noted American theatre architect Thomas W. Lamb.[8] It was built for Metro Goldwyn Mayer and seating was provided for 1,491 people in orchestra and balcony levels. The auditorium reopened in 2006 and was sub-divided into six large luxury screens. The cinema features mainly Bollywood and Hollywood films.

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2 Replies to “Architecture of Mumbai”

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