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Clockwise from top: Skyline at Cuffe Parade, the Rajabai Clock Tower, the Taj Mahal Hotel, Nariman Point & Gateway of India.

The architecture of Mumbai blends Gothic, Victorian, Art Deco, Indo-Saracenic and contemporary architectural styles. Many buildings, structures and historical monuments remain from the colonial era. Mumbai, after Miami, has the second largest number of Art Deco buildings in the world.[1][2]




Gothic and Victorian architecture

According to writer Jan Morris, "Bombay is one of the most characteristically Victorian cities in the world, displaying all the grand effrontery of Victorian eclectism".[3] The British influence on buildings in the city is evident from the colonial era. However, the architectural features include a range of European influences such as German gables, Dutch roofs, Swiss timbering, Romance arches and Tudor casements often interfused with traditional Indian features.[3]

Victoria Terminus

Bombay City Hall was built during the period 1820 and 1835, by Colonel Thomas Cowper. The University of Mumbai Library and Rajabai Tower, Xavier's College, The Secretariat, Telegraph Office, and Victoria Terminus are also fine examples of gothic architecture in the city.

Rajabai Tower

The Rajabai Tower in South Mumbai is located in the confines of the Fort campus of the University of Mumbai. It was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, an English architect, and was modelled on Big Ben, the clock tower of the United Kingdom's houses of Parliament in London.[4] The foundation stone was laid on March 1, 1869 and construction was completed in November 1878. The tower stands at a height of 85 m (280 ft) and at the time it was the tallest building in India. The tower fuses Venetian and Gothic styles.[4] It is built out of the locally available buff coloured Kurla stone and stained glass.[4]

A file photo of University of Mumbai taken in 1870s. Rajabai Clock Tower here seen shrouded in scaffolding was completed in 1878

The ground floor has two side rooms, each measuring 56 × 27.5 ft (17 × 8.5 m). The tower forms a carriage porch 2.4  (26 ft²), and a spiral staircase vestibule of 2.6 m² (28 ft²). The Tower, over the carriage porch, has a square form up to the gallery at the top of the first level which is at a height of 68 feet (20.7 m) from the ground.[5] The form changes from a square to an octagon and the height from this gallery to the top of the tower is 118 feet (36 m) and the third stage to the top of the finial is 94 feet (28.7 m), thus making a total height of 280 feet (85 m).


The Indo-Saracenic style developed in the second half of the 19th century, combining Islamic and Hindu architectural styles with its characteristic domes, arches, stained glasses, spires, and minarets. The Gateway of India and Prince of Wales Museum are good examples of this architectural type in the city.

Gateway of India

The Gateway of India is one of the major monuments in the city, located in the Apollo Bunder area in South Mumbai. It is a distinct 26 metres (85 ft) high arch built from yellow basalt and reinforced concrete.[6] Many elements of the arch are derived from the Muslim architectural styles of 16th century Gujarat, the pillars are derived from the design of Hindu temples and the design of the Gateway's windows derive from Islamic architecture.

The Gateway of India and Taj Mahal Hotel are prominent landmarks seen when entering the city by boat

The Gateway of India was built to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to Bombay, prior to the Delhi Durbar, in December 1911.[6] The foundation stone was laid on 31 March 1911, by Governor of Bombay Sir George Sydenham Clarke, and the final design of George Wittet was sanctioned in August 1914. The foundations were completed in 1920, and construction was finished in 1924.[6]

Art Deco

Art Deco architecture in Mumbai developed during the 1930s and produced distinctly angular shaped buildings with facades. Mumbai has the second largest number of Art Deco buildings in the world. Eros Cinema is a typical art deco building, designed by architect Sohrabji Bhedwar. The foundation of Eros Cinema was laid in 1935.[7] The cinema opened in 1938 and construction of this building on the then newly reclaimed Backbay plot housing shops and other businesses, apart from the cinema, took about two and a half years to complete. Partially faced with red Agra sandstone, this building is painted cream. The two wings of this Art Deco building meet up in a central block. The foyer is in white and black marble with touches of gold. Marble staircases with chromium handrails lead up to the upper floor.[7] The murals are in muted colours depicting Indian architectures.

Metro Cinema

The Metro Adlabs Cinema, located on Mahatma Gandhi Road, at Dhobitalao Junction is also a good example of the Art Deco style of architecture that appeared in the 1930s in the city. The Metro Cinema opened on 8 June 1938 and was designed by noted American theatre architect Thomas W. Lamb.[8] It was built for Metro Goldwyn Mayer and seating was provided for 1,491 people in orchestra and balcony levels. The auditorium reopened in 2006 and was sub-divided into six large luxury screens. The cinema features mainly Bollywood and Hollywood films.

Contemporary architecture and development

Bombay Stock Exchange building — an example of contemporary architecture.

As the wealthiest city in India,[9] Mumbai attracts an enormous amount of international investment and has seen a large number of modern high-rise office buildings and flats spring up in recent decades. In many parts of the city, particularly the newer suburbs, modern buildings dominate the landscape away from the old part of the city. Mumbai has by far the largest number of skyscrapers in India, with 956 existing buildings and 272 under construction and many more planned as of August 2009.[10]

The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) was established in 1974 by the Government of Maharashtra to manage the planning and co-ordination of development activities in the city and to overlook the architectural development of the city.[11]

In 1995 the Heritage Committee in Mumbai was established, unifying architects, historians and citizens to preserve the city's tradition architectural heritage. A grading system has since been used under the heritage regulations to categorize buildings according to importance: the most important landmarks of national significance are categorized as Heritage Grade I, buildings of regional importance as Heritage Grade II and buildings of urban importance as Heritage Grade III.[1]

A part of the city showing more modern buildings

Notable buildings

Many notable buildings exist in Mumbai, some of which attract tourists. These include the Gateway of India, Mahalakshmi Temple, Jahangir Art Gallery, Bombay High Court, Crawford Market, Taj Mahal Hotel, Flora Fountain, Afghan Church, Xavier's College, the Bombay Stock Exchange and Mumbai General Post Office.

Taj Mahal Hotel

The Taj Mahal Palace hotel resort was commissioned by Tata and first opened its doors to guests on 16 December 1903. The original Indian architects were Sitaram Khanderao Vaidya and D. N. Mirza, and the project was completed by an English engineer W. A. Chambers. The cost of construction was £250,000 (£127 million today).[12] During World War I, the hotel was converted into a 600-bed hospital. The dome of the hotel is made from the same steel as used in the Eiffel Tower. Jamsedji Tata imported the same steel during that time. The hotel was the first in India to install and operate a steam elevator.

Mumbai General Post Office.jpg Crawford Market.png Mumbai TajMahalHotel.jpg Flora Fountain at night.JPG Don bosco wadala mumbai.jpg KnesetEliyahooSynagogue.JPG
Mumbai General Post Office Crawford Market Taj Mahal Hotel Flora Fountain Don Bosco Wadala Knesset Eliyahoo synagogue

Crawford Market

Crawford Market, in south Mumbhai is named after Arthur Crawford, the first Municipal Commissioner of the city. The building, completed in 1869, was donated to the city by Cowasji Jehangir. In 1882, the building was the first market in India to be lit up by electricity.[13] The edifice is a blend of Norman, Flemish and Gothic architectural styles.[14] The friezes on the outside entrance depicting Indian farmers, and the stone fountains inside, were designed by Lockwood Kipling, father of novelist Rudyard Kipling.[14] The market covers an area of 22,471 sq m (24,000 sq ft) which 5,515 sq m (6,000 sq ft) is occupied by the building itself. The structure was built using coarse buff coloured Kurla stone, with redstone from Bassein.

Highcourt.jpg Majestic House, Colaba.jpg David Sassoon Library.JPG Bombay Municipal Corporation.JPG
Bombay High Court Majestic House David Sassoon Library Bombay Municipal Corporation building

Watson's Hotel

Watson's Hotel, currently known as the Esplanade Mansion, is located in the Kala Ghoda area of Mumbai and is India's oldest surviving cast iron building.[15] It was named after its original owner John Watson and designed by civil engineer Rowland Mason Ordish, who was also associated with the St Pancras Station in London. The building was fabricated in England between 1867 and 1869 from cast iron components and was assembled and constructed on site. The external cast-iron frame closely resembles other high-profile 19th century buildings such as London's Crystal Palace. The main façade of the hotel is distinguished by wide, open balconies on each floor that connected the guest rooms, which were built around the atrium in a courtyard arrangement.[16]

Neglect of the building has resulted in decay and, despite its listing as a Grade II–A heritage structure, the building is now in a dilapidated state. The condition of the building was publicized by Italian architect Renzo Piano and heritage activists, and as a result of their efforts, the building was listed in June 2005 on the list of "100 World Endangered Monuments" by the World Monuments Fund, a New York-based NGO.[17]

Places of worship

Mount Mary Church (Bombay).jpg Banganga temple shikhara.jpg Don bosco wadala mumbai.jpg KnesetEliyahooSynagogue.JPG Afghan-Church, Bombay-FV.jpg
Mount Mary Church Banganga Temple Don Bosco Wadala Knesset Eliyahoo synagogue Afghan Church
SEEPZ church 4.jpg St thomas Cathedreal.jpg St. Michael's Church, Mahim 4.jpg
Ruins of St. John the Baptist Church in Andheri, built by the Portuguese Jesuits in 1579 St. Thomas Cathedral was the first Anglican church in Bombay The St. Michael's Church in Mahim, the oldest Portuguese Franciscan church in Bombay, was built in 1534



  1. ^ a b "Mumbai, Past and Present". The Hindu. Volume 19 - Issue 13, Jun. 22 - Jul. 5, 2002. Retrieved August 15, 2009.  
  2. ^ "Mumbai’s latest endangered species: its art deco heritage". Urban January 4, 2009. Retrieved August 15, 2009.  
  3. ^ a b "Bombay’s British Architecute - The Gothic and the Ethnic". India profile. Retrieved August 15, 2009.  
  4. ^ a b c "Rajabai Tower". Retrieved August 15, 2009.  
  5. ^ "About". University of Mumbai. Retrieved August 15, 2009.  
  6. ^ a b c Dwivedi, Sharada; Rahul Mehotra (1995). Bombay – The Cities Within. Mumbai: India Book House. ISBN 818502880X.  
  7. ^ a b "Eros Cinema". Retrieved August 15, 2009.  
  8. ^ "Metro Big Cinema". Cinema Treasures. Retrieved August 15, 2009.  
  9. ^ "Demand Curve - India needs cities network for easy rural urban shift". Indicus Analytics. Retrieved August 15, 2009.  
  10. ^ "Tall Buildings of Mumbai". Emporis. Retrieved August 15, 2009.  
  11. ^ "Welcome to Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority". Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority. Retrieved August 15, 2009.  
  12. ^ "Mumbai Terror Attacks". The Guardian. November 27, 2008. Retrieved August 15, 2009.  
  13. ^ "Crawford Market". Mumbai Bombay Hotels. Retrieved August 15, 2009.  
  14. ^ a b "Mahatma Jyotirao Phule Market (Crawford Market)". American Airlines.,320124/683/record.html. Retrieved August 15, 2009.  
  15. ^ Choudhury, Chitrangada (June 24, 2005). "Now listed as 'endangered', Watson’s Hotel was once toast of Bombay". Indian Express (Express Group). Retrieved August 15, 2009.  
  16. ^ "India's 'cast iron' bldg crumble". Mumbai Mirror (Times Group). July 2, 2005.  
  17. ^ Joshi, Monika (June 21, 2005). "Mumbai's Watson's Hotel in endangered structures list". Retrieved August 15, 2009.  


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