Mumbai is a city with so much to offer, for visitors and locals alike. If you are planning to visit the city, perhaps via a London to Mumbai flight, you may be interested in spending time exploring the city’s many incredible Art Deco buildings. Mumbai has the second largest collection of Art Deco buildings in the world after Miami (though some say Mumbai could even have more), providing the city with a unique character, charm, and atmosphere.
In this guide, we are going to highlight what you need to know about Mumbai’s Art Deco architecture, letting you know about the history and most importantly, where you can go to see these buildings for yourself.
What is Art Deco?
Before we get into the specifics of Mumbai’s Art Deco offerings, for those who aren’t familiar with the style, let’s sum up what is meant by Art Deco. Art Deco was the predominant decorative style of the 1920s and 1930s. It is characterised by geometric shapes, bold colours, and symmetry, combined to create a visual that is extremely pleasing to the eye. It is typically utilised in architecture and household objects.
What are the characteristics of Art Deco in Mumbai?
- Streamlined designs and rounded corners – influenced by the trains, ships, and planes of the 20s to create buildings that appeared futuristic, sleek, and modern.
- Nautical features – Mumbai is a port city and was influenced by the ocean liners of the area. The Art Deco buildings incorporated these nautical features such as porthole windows and deck style railings.
- The Frozen Fountain – The Frozen Fountain is a symbol of eternal life, popularised by designer Rene Lalique. The symbol has become a feature of Mumbai’s Art Deco facades.
History of Art Deco in Mumbai
Mumbai’s Art Deco history began when the city was known as Bombay and part of the British Empire. The Bombay Art Deco movement was started by the Indian Institute of Architects, which was founded in Bombay in 1929. With the Art Deco craze taking Europe by storm, these Indian architects were inspired by what they saw in the west and the modernity that the style offered.
With Bombay booming in the 1930s with a growing middle class and an increase of people migrating to the city, new public and residential buildings had to be developed. Art Deco was seen as aspirational and was therefore incorporated into these new buildings, spreading throughout the city. Many of these buildings remain today, allowing locals and visitors a wonderful glimpse into the past as you walk through various Mumbai neighbourhoods.
How many art deco buildings does Mumbai have?
Mumbai has the second most Art Deco buildings in the world after Miami, with 330 having been catalogued so far by Art Deco Mumbai. However, there are likely many more to find (with some suggesting 600 plus) as attempts to catalogue Mumbai’s Art Deco buildings continue.
Where is the best place to see Art Deco in Mumbai?
There are several locations where you can see Art Deco in Mumbai but some of the best are located in Fort, a busy commercial district, where you can find the Oval Maidan – one of the key locations of Art Deco in the city. Marine Drive is another important spot to take in this marvellous architecture, looking out to the Arabian Sea, this stretch of road features an Art Deco promenade with Art Deco apartment buildings, including the wonderful Soona Mahal.
Oval Maidan and the Victorian and Art Deco Ensemble of Mumbai
Such is the wealth of Art Deco buildings on display in Mumbai that a particular collection of these gems has been recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The site is known as the Victorian and Art Deco Ensemble of Mumbai, with the Art Deco buildings being accompanied by some of the city’s 19th century Victorian Neo-Gothic structures.
As a result, for those wanting to see Mumbai’s Art Deco heritage for themselves, a visit to this site is highly recommended. It is set around a large recreation ground called the Oval Maidan, where sports like cricket are often played.
The east side of the Oval Maidan is where you can see the Victorian buildings but those seeking the Art Deco buildings will want to visit the west side. A total of 94 buildings are protected by this heritage site, ensuring that Mumbai’s Art Deco heritage lasts long into the future.
Visiting Art Deco at the Oval Maidan
Soumya, from the travel blog Stories by Soumya, has spent time at the Oval Maidan, and shared with us her thoughts:
“The best place to experience the art deco side of Mumbai is around the Oval Maidan area which is a paradise for heritage lovers. On one side of the Oval, you’ll find Victorian-Gothic buildings of the 19th century whereas, on the other side, you’ll see Art Deco edifices from the early 20th century. It is almost as if Mumbai moved from one century to another right across this sprawling cricket field called the Oval Maidan.”
Soumya also spoke with us about what it is that she enjoys the most about Mumbai’s Art Deco buildings: “Mumbai’s Art Deco buildings are sleek, glamorous, and beautiful. They remind me of an era when ideas and styles flowed freely between Europe and India and merchants brought back with them futuristic architectural elements that sowed the seeds of Indian Art Deco.
“What I like most about the Art Deco buildings of Mumbai is the fact that they smartly combine local Indian design with traditional Deco imagery, giving rise to an interesting new style called Indo-Deco.”
Visiting Art Deco on Marine Drive
Antonina, from the blog India Palette, has enjoyed seeing Mumbai’s Art Deco delights herself and paints a picture of what to expect in the Marine Drive area: “A fascinating boardwalk especially at night, which is dotted by a row of residential apartments facing the Arabian Sea, Marine Drive is a top tourist attraction that resulted from what were initially intended as land reclamation efforts. The string of these residential flats carries out a conspicuous display of Art Deco poshness.”
Top Art Deco buildings in Mumbai to see
There is a long list of Art Deco buildings in Mumbai but if you are looking to narrow it down to some of the most celebrated, below we have highlighted a handful to add to your to-do list.
The Regal Cinema is an Art Deco movie theatre and certainly one of the locations of note in the city. Located on Colaba Causeway, it was the first air-conditioned theatre in India, was built in 1933 and has become an icon of the city.
Eros Cinema is another building to make sure to see, being a towering example of Art Deco in Mumbai. Located on Churchgate just off the Oval Maidan, it has a capacity of 1,204 people and was designed in the Streamline Moderne style of Art Deco.
Bhakti, from the Mumbai-based blog Fashion Tourist, is a particular fan of Eros Cinema and the aforementioned Regal Cinema, telling us about her experience with these and other Art Deco buildings in the city:
“As an awe-struck child, I enjoyed watching movies at the legendary Eros cinema & Regal cinema. During my first corporate assignment at Fort, Mumbai, I loved walking around to look at the famous art deco buildings during my lunch break. The classic blend of Indian elements with subtle grandeur that shines through even after so many years is what I love the most.”
Shiv Shanti Bhuvan
Another location at the Oval Maidan to make sure to see is the wonderful Shiv Shanti Bhuvan, a bright yellow apartment building, built between 1934 and 1935. You can’t miss it, with its stucco façade wrapping around its corner spot location, impressing with its sweeping verticality.
New India Assurance
The New India Assurance, constructed in 1936, is definitely one of Mumbai’s most impressive Art Deco buildings. This office building is a giant of Art Deco design, with its monumental facade and towering verticality making it seem larger than it is in reality.
Located on Marine Drive, Soona Mahal is considered the gold standard of this Art Deco lined street, with commanding views of the Arabian Sea, sporting a streamlined form and circular viewing gallery. It was built in 1937 and is known for its deep cantilevered balconies and vertical accents.
Map of Art Deco buildings in Mumbai
Below you will find a map of just some of Mumbai’s amazing Art Deco buildings. Use the map below when you visit the city to find a handful of key locations, such as the Oval Maidan, Marine Drive, the Eros and Regal cinemas, and the New India Assurance.
Art Deco recommendations from Mumbai locals
Parimita, from the fashion, beauty, and lifestyle blog Mumbai Gloss, has spoken to us about her time seeing Art Deco architecture in Mumbai, highlighting some of the best locations:
“I live in Mumbai, so I have explored many beautiful architectural marvels since I moved here. When I came to Mumbai in 2009, I used to love walking around the Kala Ghoda and Marine Drive area to see these beautiful buildings.
“There are more than 600 Art Deco buildings in Mumbai, including residences, palaces, hotels, and cinemas, all built between 1930 and 1950. The most popular are Regal Cinema near Gateway of India, Shiv Shanti Bhuvan at Oval Maidan, New India Assurance building at Fort among others. The best way to explore these buildings is on foot. Walk around the alleys to discover houses and buildings from another era.
“Other interesting Art Deco buildings in Mumbai are Ram Mahal, and Eros Cinema in Churchgate, Seksaria Building in Marine Drive, Liberty Cinema in Maine Lines, shops around Lohar Chawl, Edward Cinema in Kalbadevi, Shelly’s Hotel in Colaba, Rajjab Mahal in Oval Maidan, Nalini Kunj in Matunga, several buildings in Girgaon, Mohammad Ali Road and Cumbala Hill, many bungalows in Bandra and Shivaji Park area. The city is dotted with beautiful architecture from the bygone era.”
We have also spoken to Snehalata, from the lifestyle website Blogsikkav, who shared some of her recommendations: “The Art Deco in Mumbai, India style, is a most attractive part of the architecture of the city. Basically, they were made as office buildings, residences, and movie theatres, but now they are part of world heritage.
“Places like Eros Cinema, Regal Cinema, and Central Library were made to look like futuristic buildings of Mumbai. But today there are many such buildings like Ambani House which was made in a way that has a different architectural style that no one had ever imagined.
“Also, monuments like Gateway of India, Hotel Taj, University of Mumbai, Dome of Worli, the painting of Asalpha slums, Frozen Fountain are a few which also have a beautiful Art Deco style. New India Assurance is also one of the old heritages of Mumbai. Parsi Colony of Dadar and the old shops of Colaba Causeway also give you that vibe of old and rich Mumbai.”
Other Mumbai locations to visit for Art Deco
We spoke to Bharat Gothoskar, the CEO and Founder of local Mumbai walking tours company, Khaki Tours, who shared with us some recommendations and opinions on what makes Mumbai’s Art Deco special:
“Art Deco was a style brought into Mumbai by its first home-grown architects as a reaction to the colonial architecture styles that were in vogue in the city. And that’s what makes Mumbai’s Art Deco architecture special to me.
“To most people, the Art Deco district in Mumbai is the area from Oval Maidan to Marine Drive, but actually, you’ll find Art Deco architecture all over the city, especially the areas that were developed from the 1930s to the 1960s – Mohammed Ali Road, Dadar-Matunga, Shivaji Park-Mahim, Bandra, Chembur… In fact, a recent survey discovered that Mumbai has more Art Deco buildings than Miami, the Art Deco capital of the world.
“For me, the best way to experience Mumbai’s Art Deco architecture is our #ArtDekho heritage walk. We take you around the Oval Maidan Art Deco district, showcasing not only the architecture, but also other facets of the style, the architects, and the stories behind them.”
Where to learn more about Art Deco in Mumbai
If you want to learn more about Art Deco in Mumbai, there is an online digital repository called the Art Deco Mumbai Trust, which has been working hard to catalogue all of Mumbai’s Art Deco architecture. The website features a wealth of information, a gallery, a complete inventory, and their research into Mumbai’s Art Deco. They also offer tours of Mumbai if you want an expert to guide you around the city’s Art Deco heritage. You can also donate to help support their work.
Exploring Art Deco in Mumbai
We hope this look into Mumbai’s Art Deco architecture has been informative and inspired you to visit the city. Mumbai has so much to offer, no matter how long you are planning to spend here. Whether you are flying in for a couple of days or are looking forward to a Mumbai holiday, make sure to keep your eye out for the city’s Art Deco features during your stay.
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