Memories of a stroll down the expansive Marine Drive promenade are generally reminiscent of the unadulterated breeze, and the continuous ebb and fall of the sea. But the mention of Queen’s Necklace also calls to mind the Art Deco (also known as Bombay Deco) buildings, with their curvy balconies, geometric facades, saucer-shaped turrets and stenciled lettering, facing the coast.
The picture is incomplete if any of these elements is missing. An almost identical string of apartments is seen right opposite the vast Oval Maidan, and some more similar architecture is spread out across the length and breadth of south Mumbai.
It’s a lesser-known fact that Mumbai is only second to Miami, USA, when it comes to the number of surviving Art Deco architecture in a city. Simplifying the concept of Art Deco, city-based architect, lecturer and author, Kaiwan Mehta says, "This kind of architecture looks like machine-crafted geometry, replete with classic traditions and motifs."
Built between 1934 and 1935, Shiv Shanti Bhuvan stands tall opposite the Oval Maidan in Churchgate.
Marine Drive promenade.
Liberty Cinema, built in the year 1947, was one of the main venues to host movie premieres till the late 1980s.
Motifs of flora and fauna, and the usage of stenciled fonts are key Art Deco features.
A prominent entrance with geometrical motifs is a common feature spotted across Art Deco architecture.
This architectural movement that boomed during the 1920s and the 1930s in Europe and the USA made its way to our shores towards the late 1930s. Mehta adds, "The Art Deco boom was seen in Mumbai during the ’30s and the ’40s when cinema houses were a new form of building, and apartments were being rapidly developed. Rather than erecting buildings of different heights and architectural style, there was uniformity in the structures. Take for instance, the buildings you see on the Marine Drive: they make the road iconic."
Iconic Bombay Deco buildings:
* Liberty Preview Ciena, 1950
* New India Assurance Building, 1935-1937
* Cricket Club of India, 1937
* Eros, 1938
* Regal, 1933 (first public building in Bombay to have air-conditioning)
* Bai Pirojbai Dadabhoy Maneckji Vatcha Agiary, 1937-45
* Dhanraj Mahal, 1938
* Empress Court, 1937-38
* Rajjab Mahal, 1933-39
* Sunshine, 1933-39
* Oceana, 1936-43
* Soona Mahal, 1936-43
* Western India House, 1934-35
* Maneckji Wadia Building, 1939-45
--Inputs from Urban and Regional Development Institute, Fort
The key feature of Art Deco architecture include:
* A prominent entrance
* Elaborate balconies, usually circular
* Located at the corner of a street
* Ornamental work on balconies, railings and gates
* Usage of tropical, nautical, floral or animal motifs that are converted into geometrical shapes
* Architectural lettering or thick fonts
How did Art Deco come to Mumbai?
In his 2007 book, Bombay Art Deco: A Visual Journey (1930-1953), Navin Ramani writes that a group of Indian architects, influenced by western architectural traditions, began to create Art Deco structures in Mumbai. These were the few modernist architects in the country, and were members of the India Institute of Architecture.