Mumbai – a tour of Art Deco architecture in Churchgate and Fort

Not many people know it but Mumbai is renowned for its Art Deco architecture, to the extent it has been deemed worthy of a UNESCO World Heritage designation.

You could walk around and see most of the best examples in a day, either starting or ending in Sir Pherozeshah Mehta Road in Fort or Marine Drive or Maharshi Karve Road in Churchgate but you might also want to break it up and take in other things in each area. My Google map is here, just put the street names I mention in the search box and click on the place marks.

As I mentioned in the last post, the sweeping curve of Marine Drive was made possible by a land reclaimation project in the 1920s. Most of the buildings on the drive were put up by wealthy Parsis and constructed in the 1920s and 1930s. The Art Deco style suited the Mumbai’s spirit of the times, young, confident and modernising.

Some of the first Art Deco buildings on Marine Drive were the Kapur Mahal, Zaver Mahal and Keval Mahal, constructed between 1937 and 1939.

Click on the galleries to get the best view if you’re on a computer.

Marine Drive is lined with Art Deco apartment blocks for nearly its entire length, leading some people to make comparisons with Ocean Drive in Miami Beach. It is a fact that Mumbai has the second largest collection of Art Deco buildings in the world, after Miami.

However my favourite street for Deco is Maharshi Karve Road which runs down the west side of Oval Maidan park.

It’s as if the Art Deco of Churchgate is facing off with the Victorian Gothic in Fort on the other side of the park. Much as I like the old heavy stuff, Art Deco wins every time for me.

My favourites are Rajjab Mahal and Shiv Shanti Bhavan, on the corner with HT Parekh Marg, which are two fantastic examples of Indo Deco, or Deco-Saracenic; Indian design mixed with Art Deco imagery to create a unique style.

I also love the curves of Ram Mahal on Dinshaw Vacha Road around the corner.

And Moti Mahal on the corner over the road.

There are several Art Deco cinemas dotted around the downtown. Here we have the Royal Cinema, the Eros, the Liberty and the Metro. I must find out which has the nicest interior and go to see a film next time.

Over in Fort, it’s worth walking the length of Sir Pherozeshah Mehta Road. There seems to be an Art Deco office building on every corner.

Halfway down, between Cawasji Patel Road and Parsi Bazaar Street, is the famous Laxmi Building with a statue of the godess on the roof.

My favourite is the United India Building on the corner with Shahid Bhagat Singh Road.

Elsewhere in Fort, I love the elegant canopy outside the Jehangir Art Gallery at the bottom of Mahatma Gandhi Road.

Think I got most of the best stuff! I’m sure there are some bits to tidy up next time though. Next, some different styles of architecture…

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