The Architecture of Mumbai

July 12th, 2019

Mumbai is a captivating city where tradition and modernity meet on the streets and in the skyline. The architecture of Mumbai reflects the fascinating history of the city encompassing a rich and diverse heritage with centuries of distinctive cultural, religious, and philosophical communities making their mark in the form of extravagant facades, scared sites, and spiritual foundations. Lush national parks, enchanting wildlife, and coastlines drenched in golden sunlight emphasize fierce energy of the bustling streets surrounding the grand allure of colonial-era architecture, unique bazars, hidden temples, and clear divergent visions of local communities including one the second-largest collection of Art Deco buildings in the world. Diving deep into the marvels of Mumbai quickly reveals the splendor of the architectural aesthetic evolving over the years with the following buildings embodying the true culture of the city.

1. Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus
The imposing design of the Chhaptrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus exposes the exuberant aesthetic of the architectural Gothic style during colonial-era India balancing Victorian, Hindu, Mughal, and Islamic styles with elaborate domes, buttresses, turrets, spires, and shimmering stained glass. The sensational details of the structure derive as much from the grand features of the façade as from the intricate details as well including the gargoyles adorned with dog faces and windows adorned with images of peacocks looming above the central courtyard. The British architect Fredrick Stevens designed the complex in the 19th century before its completion in 1887 becoming the most remarkable feature of Raj era architecture. blending of features highlights the diverse cultures found within India through the ages accentuating what is consistently considered one of the most beautiful train stations in the world.
2. Mumbai High Court

The present-day Mumbai High Court was built between 1871 and 1878 following the designs of British engineer Col. J.A. Fuller becoming a masterpiece of the Gothic revival style. Modeled after a German castle, the structure gleams beneath the tropical sun with black stone and glinting octagonal towers crowned by the statues of women personifying Justice and Mercy. While the museum established in 2015 possesses a distinctive ambiance reminiscent of a 20th-century court room filled with displays of gowns, wigs, portraits, and vintage items such as certificates from notable barristers, the action in the actual courts decorate the interior of fascinating architecture with the daily life of the city, where trials become a spectacle for both locals and visitors as officials walk between offices dressed in white tunics and red cummerbunds topped with scarlet berets and robed barristers strut between trials rounding the spiral staircases.

3. Knesset Eliyahoo Synagogue

The beautiful Jewish synagogue built in 1884 embraces both the diverse heritage of Mumbai and the captivating architectural style of the Jewish community. The white and indigo trim of the façade attracts visitors eager to view the display of restored 19-century color and neoclassical splendor. The interior shimmers with teak furniture from Burma and the classic vibrant hues of Victorian stained glass. The synagogue is one of the oldest in Mumbai and designed by the architectural firm Gostling and Morris under the patronage of Jacob Elias Sassoon, the grandson of the former leader of Mumbai’s Jewish community after emigrating from Baghdad.

4. Phiroze Jeejeebhoy Towers (Bombay Stock Exchange

The prominent structure of Mumbai’s Stock Exchange was built in the late 1970s with 29 floors and completed by 1980 as the tallest building in the city at the time. The contemporary architecture in the Fort neighborhood remains famous across Asia for hosting the continent’s first stock exchange, as well as one of the world’s fastest exchanges trading on a rapid, computerized, transparent system with averaging up to six micro seconds per trade. The building remains a symbol to the community as a constant reminder of the financial stability and significance of Mumbai and greater India.

5. University of Mumbai

The University of Mumbai was established in 1857 with an architectural design inspired by the Venetian Gothic aesthetic. Stained glass windows shimmer against the light brick pillars and marbled archways, as well as the filigree set beneath the soaring heights of the 260-foot tall Rajabai Clock Tower. Instead of blending in with the surrounding architecture on campus, the clock tower was completed in 1878 modeled after Elizabeth Tower in London, often referred to as Big Ben. The ornate stone and 24 status depicting the different casts and communities of western India match the ornate beauty of the interior. The bells chime every 15 minutes filling the school complex with an elegant tone as time passes each day.

6. Dhanraj Mahal

The Art Deco building in the city celebrates the architectural aesthetic movement in Mumbai, which hosts one of the largest collections of Art Deco buildings in the world. While the movement may have started in Paris, Mumbai captured the spirit of the image and passion for the colorful artistic exploration with the Dhanraj Mahal in the 1930s when completed as a palace for the former Raja Dhanrajgir of Hyderabad. It boasted the reputation of the costliest building in the city up to that point. The palatial grounds now act as a combination residential and commercial structure bringing together tenants in the magnificent central courtyard filled with the cooling breeze from the nearby Arabian Sea.

7. Maharashtra Police Headquarters

The former Royal Alfred Sailor’s Home was completed in 1876 and became the home of the Maharashtra Police Headquarters in 1982. The Gothic revival design resembles European-centric style common in architecture in 19th-century Mumbai when related to the colonial English presence and the affiliation to the British naval unit accommodated inside the structure housing 20 officers and 100 sailors. The building was meant as a palace for the Duke of Edinburgh, who laid the first stone during construction in 1870 and later housed the Bombay Legislative Council. The blue basalt stone and red Mangalor tiles provide colorful contrasts standing out among the lush decorative greenery in the forecourt and towering above the rustling palm trees.

8. Banganga Tank

The ancient water tank of Banganga is one of the oldest structures remaining in Mumbai dating back to the 12th century AD during the Hindu Silhara dynasty. The structure was built over a freshwater spring capturing the water for the surrounding city. The quiet, sparkling waters at the heart of Mumbai offers a tranquil respite from the surrounding bustling streets bordered by apartment complexes, towering skyscrapers, and beautiful religious temples. A narrow path leads from the larger main street in Malabar Hill to the tank transporting you to the old city far from the swift pace of modern Mumbai as the urbanization quickly encroaches.

9. General Post Office Mumbai

The General Post Office of Mumbai possesses a Mughal-Gothic architectural style often used by British engineers in the late 19th century drawing influences from Indo-Islamic designs. The black basalt glints in the sunlight with the yellow Kurla stones and white building blocks from Dhrangdra providing natural colors complementing the nearby splendor of the neighboring Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. The structure was completed in 1913 and remains the largest post office in the country representing the development of efficient communication in India acting as a symbol of the country’s commercial growth as well. The remarkable design of the preserved structure has become known as the “crowning glory” of Mumbai’s heritage architecture reflected in the central hall’s exuberant height of 120 feet tall crowned by a stunning dome.

10. Taj Mahal Palace Hotel

The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel has become a landmark in Mumbai since its completion in 1903 boasting a marvelous combination of architectural styles bringing together Moorish elements with typical details of East Asian design embellished with Florentine features for a striking image accentuated with sophisticated chandeliers, elegant archways, lavish domes, and soaring turrets. A collection of famous artwork and artifacts add to the illustrious ambiance preserving the eclectic grandeur of the hotel’s décor attracting patrons and visitors eager to experience the luxurious décor and renowned high tea in the celebrated Sea Lounge located in the Heritage wing. The hotel also hosts a delicious restaurant facing the glistening waters of the Arabian Sea and historic façade of the Gateway of India completing the striking elegance of architectural design features, among other assets, Gothic, Victorian, Romanesque, and Edwardian elements.