A forgotten genius’s masterpiece | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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A forgotten genius’s masterpiece

mumbai Updated: May 11, 2010 02:46 IST
Sudeshna Chowdhury
Sudeshna Chowdhury
Hindustan Times
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It’s an ordinary grave of an extraordinary man. Beneath the simple, white marble structure in the Sewri cemetery, lies Frederick William Stevens, the chief architect of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (Victoria Terminus).

On Tuesday, it is the 163rd birth anniversary of the man who gave Mumbai its most famous architectural masterpiece. But Stevens, who was commissioned to build the terminus in 1877, is long forgotten.

It took him 10 years to complete the structure for which he received a princely sum of Rs 5,000 as his fees. Born in Bath, England in 1847, he died of malaria in 1900 in Mumbai.

In 1887, Bori Bunder’s temporary structure was replaced by the imposing CST building, which became a landmark and recently a world heritage building declared by the UNESCO.

Commuters, who walk through the gothic building, appear oblivious of his contribution. “This is the first time I am hearing his name,” said Abhirup Dasgupta, a commuter, when asked if he knew about Stevens.

“Any good structure inspires an architect. Just a look at it (CST) and it has an impression on your mind. Stevens was undoubtedly great,” said architect Hafeez Contractor.

The railways are doing their bit by dedicating a small museum to Stevens. Located on the ground floor of the CST building, the museum showcases his portrait and blueprints of his architectural drawings.

“Students from the city and abroad come here to study this building,” said A.K. Singh, spokesman for Central Railway.

“Literally Stevens doesn’t find a mention in the syllabus but he cannot be ignored,” said Mustansir Dalvi, a professor at Sir JJ College of Architecture.

More than a 100 years after his death, the chasm in structural class between CST and other stations leaps to the eye, which is best summed up by architect Abha Narain Lambah, “So many urban ensembles have come up in the city but nothing to beat CST.”