Do your eyes light up every time you hear anything about stunning architectural buildings? If so then the architectural geek in you would be in for a treat in the lively city of Mumbai. As you may already know, Mumbai is gifted with several stunning architectural marvels and hidden among these are its gorgeous art deco buildings. Here’s everything you need to know about the art deco scene in Mumbai.
Let’s quickly get to know what Art Deco really is, before we tell you about the buildings to check out. The origin of art deco takes us back to the 1920s when it was a new form of architecture in Paris, the “City of Love”.
But it was first officially made known to a large audience at a design show called Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes in 1925. This show was initiated as France didn’t want to dwell on the troubles of World War 1 but instead change focus on fresh architecture and design. The idea was to lift up people’s spirits and help them forget about how devastating the war was. The exhibition brief put forth the idea that all installations should reflect a new style of architecture to rebuild France’s image and taste in fine arts.
The new style of architecture made a successful impression and soon enough, Art Deco had a major influence beyond the borders of France. United States, Great Britain, Portugal, Russia, Brazil, Australia, and India are some of the countries where the Art Deco movement has left its traces.
Art deco buildings have a whole era for themselves. They ruled the hearts of many architectural geeks. What makes art deco-style architecture stand out from the other styles, is the fact that its designs are pretty simple, fresh, and trendy! Each curve and boundary oozes luxury, glamor, and sleekness. To get a gist of it, you should definitely look up for pictures of the Chrysler building and the Empire State Building of NYC.
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Mumbai has enough art deco marvels to boast about. If you’re looking for a number, there are more than 600 art deco buildings in Mumbai which is believed to be only a fraction. The story behind how Mumbai got its art deco dates back to the 1930s. During this time, Mumbai was flourishing and the cotton trade route was growing in size.
The city wasn’t getting bigger just on a financial scale but also literally. In the sense that the city authorities worked towards expanding the city by reclaiming land from the sea. And to patronize this reclamation work, many entrepreneurs and merchants brought art deco to India from their travels abroad. Even budding artists contributed to this by adding ideas they got from their travels to Paris or London.
Local historian Sharada Dwivedi and architect Rahul Mehrotra describe that the art deco movement came to be in Mumbai as a result of the post-First World War economic boom. It came to being because business owners' desire to flaunt their lavish workplaces. At the same time, luxurious homes for the social elite were being constructed in the city.
The first art deco buildings were mostly found in South Mumbai, in areas like Malabar Hill, Oval Maidan, and Marine Drive, which at the time were known to be inhabited by more affluent Indians.
Art Deco in Mumbai was stylish and way different from Gothic architecture and the Asian version of Indo-Saracenic style in terms of detailing. Art Deco was simpler, elite, and a perfect way to express the rise of the middle class in Mumbai. With the introduction of Art Deco in Mumbai, India took its first step towards modern architecture. And ever since, it has only grown to become an invaluable part of Mumbai’s wonders.
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Spotting an Art Deco building is a piece of cake, here’s how you can spot one
Keep all these features in mind, and you can easily identify any Art Deco building even with a blurry vision! If you’re planning on walking around Mumbai catching a glimpse of some of its gorgeous art deco architecture, then here are some of the best art deco buildings that you must check out!
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Step out of Churchgate railway station and you’re sure to come across one of the most iconic buildings in Mumbai, Eros Cinemas. Though you can’t catch a movie here anymore, it’s still renowned for being one of the most popular art deco-styled cinemas in Mumbai.
With a combination of cream and faint red paint and a structure that almost looks like a wedding cake, Eros Cinemas is a hard-to-miss. It’s only natural if the white and black marbles of the foyer complimented by a little gold, invite you in to watch a movie. Once you enter you can see the marble staircase leading up to the upper floor with walls decked up with murals of Indian architecture, and a comfy seating capacity for 1,204 people per show.
Did you know that there was a time when Eros was known as “The Rendezvous of the East”? Well, now you do. The fact that it also housed a restaurant and a ballroom, is why it lived up to its name. Just a heads up, visiting here will make you want to go back in time and watch a good movie with the background noise of people hooting and whistling!
Address: Cambata Building, 42, Maharshi Karve Road, Churchgate.
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At Eros Cinemas, you can find a little old Hollywood charm but if you look at New India Assurance, you’ll notice that it poses a more classical design. Its concrete vertical columns give it a facade of an ancient monument and also make it look larger than it actually is. On the two pillars at the main entrance, you can find two classical figures which might give you an impression of Egyptian figurines.
Fun fact: the building also houses sculptures that represent the working class of India like potters, farmers, and weavers, reflecting the roots of India. Take it as a challenge and try spotting them when you cover this building on your art deco tour.
Address: 87, Mahatma Gandhi Road, Kala Ghoda, Fort.
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If you still haven’t gotten a clear idea of what a classic art deco building really is, then you need to go see the Soona Mahal. This is a cream-colored building with striking red vertical lines that sits parallel to the serene Marine Drive. These striking red lines and curved balconies are the prominent features of an art deco building.
Also, did you know that most buildings near the sea follow an aquatic theme? To name a few there’s Oceana, Bayvue, and Riviera. Although Soona Mahal doesn’t have an ocean-themed name, it sure has a prominent feature that compensates for it. If you give a little strain to your neck to look up at the roof of the building, you’ll agree that it looks like a ship’s bridge.
Originally, the building plan included a jazz club on the ground floor. Today you won’t find the jazz club there, but you sure can grab a slice of pizza from the pizzeria instead while enjoying the sunset at Marine Drive.
Address: Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose road, near Pizza By The Bay, Churchgate.
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Sitting gracefully on a lane on Marine Lines is the most-talked-about art deco cinema hall in Mumbai, Liberty Cinemas. Here, you can find this art deco style architecture screaming for attention! And it's not just the exteriors we’re talking about, but also the interiors.
With a peach exterior and the name, ‘Liberty’ highlighted vertically in red, the building will easily watch your eye. Once you enter the cinema hall, you’re bound to feel like you’ve gone back to the 20th century. The stepped ceiling of the auditorium and concealed lighting is followed through down the halls, giving it a complete old-school vibe.
For those of you who don’t know, there lies a fun fact behind its name. Liberty cinema was built in 1947, which as we all know was also the year of India’s Independence. And that was exactly why its founder Habib Hoosein decided to name it Liberty. One thing is for sure, visiting here will definitely give you major FOMO on missing some of its legendary screenings like Mughal-e-Azam, Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, and Mother India.
Address: Liberty Cinema, 41, 42, New Marine Lines.
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To give you a variety of everything, Mumbai also has apartment buildings that follow art deco-style architecture. And you don’t need to go to different places to witness their beauty. The iconic Oval Maidan is surrounded by many art deco apartments, and one of the popular ones of them is the Shiv Shanti Bhuvan.
Inspired by Egyptian architecture, the building stands tall boasting its green and yellow colored attire. And if you’re someone who likes to keep things in order, you’d be extremely pleased to see the neatly aligned windows and balconies.
What’s interesting is that it also sits right across the elegant architecture of Mumbai University and the High Court, which are from a different century altogether! So, you can literally tell the difference between the styles of the two centuries like a pro.
Address: 146, road number 3, opposite Oval Maidan, Churchgate.
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Another quintessential art deco movie theater in the city of dreams is Regal Cinemas. Just like its neighboring cinema Eros, Regal also has a cream-colored facade, but a structure unlike any other. The main front has the name written vertically in bold and a step-like top. The credit for its incredible design goes to none other than Charles Stevens, the son of F.W. Stevens (the architect who designed the famous Victoria Terminus).
You won’t believe it, but Regal had several facilities that were way ahead of its time. It was one of the first buildings to have a soda fountain, neon lighting, and an underground garage. In fact, it was Asia’s first theater to have air conditioning!
Regal started its journey with a bang by screening Laurel and Hardy’s “The Devil Brother” in 1933. And the best part, it continues to screen movies to this day but unfortunately is completely renovated. So if you’re in the vicinity, book tickets, and catch a movie in the comfort of this classic art deco theater!
Address: 140, Maharshi Karve road, opposite Oval Maidan, Churchgate.
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Art Deco in Mumbai is way different from the ones you’ll find elsewhere. Credits for the same goes to the distinct weather conditions and temperatures in the tropics. As every Mumbaikar knows, the climate in Mumbai is hot and humid, and so it was important to design the buildings keeping in mind the concept of ventilation.
This is why you can see large windows and balconies in each building, to allow the free flow of sunlight and cool breeze. Even the windows were topped off with a shelf (chhajjas) or eyebrow to prevent the direct entry of sunlight in the rooms and to keep the temperature inside cool. Many artists even took inspiration from the tropical imagery of Mumbai, i.e. from its ports, beaches, and sun rays. And you can spot these from the carvings of tropical birds and animals on building facades. One such example is the Swastik Court which flaunts the panel of three tropical birds, right above the entrance. Trying to spot these small intricate details on your walk of checking out art deco buildings is just going to be super fun!
Having read everything you need to know about Art Deco architecture in Mumbai, you will only fall more in love with these art deco buildings on your tour around the city. While you’re treating the architectural geek in you, don’t forget to click some aesthetic pictures of these spectacular buildings to look back and reminisce on.
Which City In India Has The Most Number Of Art Deco Buildings?
Mumbai is the number one city in India to have the most Art Deco buildings. In fact, it houses the second-largest number of art deco buildings in the world.
How Many Art Deco Buildings Are There In Mumbai?
All in all, there are 11 gorgeous art deco buildings in Mumbai, that are truly a sight to behold.
Which Of The Indian Cities Have Art Deco In Architecture?
Some of the Indian cities known for their beautiful art deco buildings are Mumbai, Jaipur, and Jodhpur.
Which City Is Known For Art Deco?
If we’re talking about the world, then New York City is most popularly known for its art deco buildings like Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, and Chrysler building. And if we’re talking about India, Mumbai is popular for its art deco architecture.
Which City Is Known As City Of Art In India?
The city of Kolkata is known as the city of art in India. After all the city has been home to many popular artists, poets, and writers, and is an artistic and cultural hub.
Who Is The Father Of Art Deco?
Romain de Tirtoff, popularly known as Erté is known as the father of Art Deco. Born in Russia, Erté has a huge influence on fashion, dance, art, and Hollywood.
What Age Did Art Deco Originate In?
It can’t be determined exactly in which year Art Deco originated. However, it was definitely not around during World War I, so it can be traced back to somewhere between the 1920s or 30s or the period just before the wars.