Architecture,  Maharashtra,  Mumbai

Art Deco Architecture in Mumbai

 

I’ve been planning to publish an article on Art Deco architecture in  Mumbai for ages. Mumbai Art Deco buildings, in my opinion, are as fascinating as its famous New Gothic stunners. Or may be it’s the unique combination of the two that makes the city’s landscape so distinctive. 

Art Deco architecture in Mumbai-Empress-court
Empress Court building – the queen of Art Deco in Mumbai.

Art Deco Rocking in the Roaring Twenties

But before talking about Art Deco architecture in Mumbai, let’s discuss the origins of Art Deco in general. The metaphoric wild roar this architectural style seemingly proclaimed and its grandiose emergence from the 1920s era, also known as the Roaring Twenties, account for the copious geometric features, flamboyant hues, timeless edgy patterns, opulent design elements that primarily abound in Art Decoratifs, otherwise called as Art Deco. 

The Golden Twenties conjure up images of wide prosperity and affluence in all aspects of lifestyle ranging from cultural to social and political when the world has just recuperated from decades of economic doldrums brought about by the precedent World War I.  The Mad Decade catapulted the world into a major dramatic change, where sprawling innovations particularly on aviation and transportation, have been introduced that generally improved the quality of life of mankind. 

It is also during this decade that Art Deco Movement was ushered in and eventually gained an upperhand in the field of arts and all the facets it encompasses such as fashion, furniture, interior design, architecture, jewelry, industrial and the like,  which was subsequently adopted by countries whose artists and architects exhibit profound fascination for western culture.    

The Bold Influence of Art Deco on Indian Architecture 

Porous national borders made it feasible for Art Deco style to penetrate other countries and allowed its developments to take their natural course towards the next decade.  Following the prominent success of the “Ideal Home Exhibition” staged by the Indian Institute of Architects in Mumbai Town Hall, which showcased fastidious attention to details and ideal methods to arrange the interior and various elements of a home, the Art Deco aesthetic features have been widely embraced and assimilated in the architectural advancements particularly in South Mumbai. 

With the inexorable economic progress in the city of Mumbai ramping up, the rise in the demands for the construction of buildings and residential infrastructures was deemed simultaneously.  A cabal of well-trained Indian architects were afforded immersion in the cosmopolitan cities of London, New York and Paris at that time and brought home the ideals of Art Deco.  Indian design was then infused and integrated with these ideals, thus,  achieving a standard exemplar of architectural grandeur in Mumbai and later on dubbed as Indo-Deco or Bombay Deco.

 
 
 
 
 
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How Art Deco Architecture in Mumbai Made Its Way To UNESCO

Miami, Milan, Paris and New York are probably the city names off the top of your head to associate to Art Deco.  These predominant cities have made waves in the history of Art Deco revolution flaunting prominent evidences of this burgeoning style of architecture back in the Mad Decade of 1920s spreading towards the 1930s. 

Not known to many tourists, though, Mumbai is regarded to have the most number of Art Deco inspired edifices across the globe next to Miami.   Less than three years ago, an aggregate of Victorian and Art Deco architectural structures delineated the horizon of Mumbai on Marine Drive and the tenement blocks hemming the west end of Oval Maidan, officially garnered the widely acclaimed recognition of being a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is on of the reasons why Art Deco architecture in Mumbai shouldn’t be underestimated and overlooked when visiting this multifaceted city.  

A fascinating boardwalk especially at night, which is dotted by a row of residential apartments facing the Arabian Sea, Marine Drive is a top tourist attraction that resulted from what were initially intended as land reclamation efforts.  The string of these residential flats carries out a conspicuous display of Art Deco poshness.  On the other hand, stretching towards the east is where the Oval Maidan is nestled. 

The gigantic space, serving as a public park for recreational and sports activities, is likewise sandwiched by panoramic paradigms of Art Deco architectural structures such as the Rajjab Mahal, which is deemed as relatively the most charming  with its elegantly streamlined contour and zigzag patterns of cool shades of blue and green palette, and Shiv Shanti Bhuvad strutting an ostentatious display of variegated colors. 

Rajjab-mahal- Art-Deco-Mumbai
Rajjab Mahal

The stairways are seemingly portals to different dimensions and periods of time.  What actually sets Mumbai apart from other cities that vaunt Art Deco building masterpieces is that this roaring twenties’ nascent design was also splendidly incorporated in theater houses, offices, apartments, universities, fire and train stations and not just limited to premiere historical landmarks. 

Art deco architecture in  Mumbai Shiv Shanti Bhavan
Shiv Shanti Bhavan

Mumbai: An Art Deco Throwback

But wait… there’s more! Making it to the rich plethora of Art Deco collections in Mumbai are the distinctive cinema houses built within the affluent taste of this 1920s architectural style.  The facade of Eros Cinema built in late 1930s seems to transport you back to the advent of early innovations on moving pictures.

Eros cinema art deco Mumbai
Eros Cinema

The time when Regal Cinema was erected also marked the onset of contemporary age as though beckoning the society to turn over a new leaf and embrace the economic prosperity that’s bound to reign during the decade.  An elevator, underground parking and air-conditioned interior were distinguishing features of a breakthrough. 

Moving forward to other Art Deco architectural masterpieces in Mumbai, the Taraporevala Aquarium along the Marine Drive stretch displays sharp edges and superb smooth surfaces accentuated with highly elegant decorative Egyptian images.  It also belongs to the conglomerate of Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensembles in Mumbai that received a distinct accolade from UNESCO. 

 

The Skyrocketing Fame to Crashing Decline of Art Deco

Did you know that the notably futuristic features of Art Deco that heightened its fame are the same reasons that dwindled its glory? Paradoxically, it’s a resounding yes.  Despite the spurt of success of Art Deco that went to great lengths alongside the technological innovations spawned during the roaring twenties, every era has to come to an end, so to speak. 

Towards the outbreak of World War II, the arrival of new concepts such as Modernism in the field of arts put a crashing halt to Art Deco style, hence clinching its demise.  While the dramatic decline followed its apogee, the images of lavishness of the Art Deco period still linger and immortalized in the architectural structures that were erected during its heyday and still stand mighty and proud up to the present times. 

In fact, it is believed that the rebirth of this style is being entertained recently proving that the once celebrated Art Deco deserved the spot it secured and the traction it massively drew during its period.

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