Art Deco at Oval

The era after the 1920s in Bombay is known for the advent of Art Deco, which spread across the city and influenced every aspect of city life. Art Deco derived its name from a World Fair held in Paris in 1925, called ‘Exponential Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes.’ It was a combination of both traditional and modern styles, introducing new forms of designs in Bombay’s architecture. The Indian Institute of Architects (IIA) played a significant role in expanding the Art Deco movement in India, which held the first architectural exhibition called the ‘Ideal Home Exhibition’ in the Town Hall in November 1937, introducing the audiences to the world of Art Deco. Mumbai became a hub of Art Deco and was finally conferred with the UNESCO World Heritage status for the Art Deco buildings around the Oval Maidan in Churchgate in 2016, cementing the legacy of Bombay’s architecture. However, Art Deco not only impacted the designs of the apartments and buildings of Bombay, but it also inspired interior living spaces introducing new and innovative ideas in making furniture, lighting, bathroom fittings, etc.

Entrance and lettering, Court View

Court View, 126 Maharshi Karve Road, Churchgate. Court View was named after the Bombay High Court which is visible across the Oval Maidan. Architects Maneckji Dalal and Merwanji Bana & Co. designed Court View with additional designs by Gajanan Babu Mhatre, who was brought on as consultant at the later stages.

Frozen Fountain motif, Court View

Frozen fountain motif above the entrance porch, Court View. This motif represents eternal life and was made widely popular in the early 20th century by the work of French glass designer Rene Lalique (1860-1945).

Wave motif on porch railing, Court View

Geometric motif on porch railing of compound wall, Court View.

Frozen fountain motif on window grille, Court View

Frozen fountain motif on window grille, Court View. The frozen fountain is a defining feature in Art Deco ornamentation in Mumbai and was introduced by architectural firm Merwanji Bana and Company. Their work is also notable for use of decorative stucco and glasswork on building facades.

Wave motif bas relief, Court View

Bas relief of tropical imagery (ocean waves) on the balcony at Court View.

Empress Court

Empress Court,132 Maharshi Karve Road, Churchgate. The Mehta family bought the property in 1960 from a Parsi family. Currently, Empress Court serves as the residence of the fourth generation of the Mehta family.

Entrance and lettering, Empress Court

Entrance and lettering, Empress Court. Built in 1933-39, Empress Court was designed by architects Contractor and Kanga with additional designs by Gajanan Babu Mhatre. Most of the residential buildings along Maharshi Karve Marg were designed by Indian developers and architects, rather than British architects.

Window grille with tropical motif, Empress Court

Detail of window grille, Empress Court.

Metal grille with tropical imagery, Empress Court

Tropical imagery motifs of sun, cloud and wave on balcony grille, Empress Court.

Detail of zigzag glass panel running along the central staircase, Empress Court. The tower is symmetrically framed by rounded balconies on either side.

Detail of porch railing, Empress Court

Detail of porch railing on compound wall, Empress Court.

Entrance porch, Fairlawn

Fairlawn, 128 Maharshi Karve Road, Churchgate. The Art Deco buildings in Mumbai were mostly designed by a small group of Indian and British architects. They had studied architecture in the West and returned to India with accreditation from the Associates of the Royal Institute of British Architects (ARIBA).

Lettering, Fairlawn

Metal cut out Avenida font used in lettering, Fairlawn.

Wave-motif on porch railing, Fairlawn

Wave-motif on porch railing of the compound wall, Fairlawn. A remarkable feature about the Art Deco buildings along Maharshi Karve Marg is the uniformity of form and design. For example, the use of porch railings is common in all the buildings, and they all have a low compound wall running along the front of the building.

Wave motif on window railing, Fairlawn

Frozen fountain motifs used on window grille, Fairlawn.

Curvilinear balconies, Fairlawn

Curvilinear balconies on both sides of the central stairway, Fairlawn. The balconies have a wavy band running along the bottom edge. This contouring element was typical of the Art Deco period and appears in several buildings along Maharshi Karve Marg, usually used on balconies and above the entrance porch.

Entrance, Green Fields

Green Fields,134 Maharshi Karve Road, Churchgate.

Curvilinear balconies, Green Fields

Streamlined curved balconies on upper floors, Green Fields. Streamlining was used to convey a look of sophistication and futurism in Art Deco buildings.

Zigzag motif on vehicle gate, Green Fields

Zig zag motifs on window grille and porch railing of the compound wall, Green Fields.

Boundary Pillar, Green Fields

Boundary pillar with banding. The pillar is shared between Green Fields (right half) and Queen’s Court (left half).

Lettering, Ivorine

Ivorine, 154 Maharshi Karve Road, Churchgate. Agustea font used for lettering.

Entrance, Ivorine

Detail of entrance porch with sunburst beamed canopy and a wave motif band, Ivorine.

Entrance of Motabhoy Mansion

Motabhoy Mansion is named after Virendra Motabhoy who purchased this property towards the end of 1943.

Lettering, Motabhoy Mansion

Llyod’s Geometric metal cut lettering is used at Motabhoy Mansion.

Wave motif on metal grille, Motabhoy Mansion

Motabhoy Mansion, 130 Maharshi Karve Road, Churchgate. Wave-motif grille over entrance.

Frozen Fountain motif on porch railing, Motabhoy Mansion

Frozen fountain motif on porch railing of compound wall, Motabhoy Mansion.

Detail of motifs on balcony, Motabhoy Mansion

Decorative geometric motifs on balcony, Motabhoy Mansion.

Entrance, Palm Court

Palm Court, 152 Maharshi Karve Road, Churchgate. Architect Gajanan B. Mhatre.

Chevron motif and lettering, Palm Court

Chevron motif (inverted V-shaped with strong angular repetitive pattern) and Independent font used in lettering, Palm Court.

Wave motif on window grille, Palm Court

Frozen fountain motif on window grille, Palm Court.

Entrance and lettering, Queen's Court

Lettering over entrance porch, Queen's Court, 152 Maharshi Karve Road, Churchgate.

Curvilinear balconies, Queen's Court

Streamlined balconies with banding, Queen’s Court.

Wave motif on the porch railing, Queen's Court

Frozen fountain motif on window grille and geometric motifs on porch railing, Queen's Court.

Frozen fountain motif on window grille, Queen's Court.

Curvlinear Corner, Rajesh Mansion

Rajesh Mansion,140 Maharshi Karve Road, Churchgate. It was built by the architect Gajanan B. Mhatre and was formerly known as 'Sorab Mansion.'

Golden lettering, Rajesh Mansion

Broadway font made from metal in gold polish, lettering used at Rajesh Mansion. The mansion was formerly known as Sorab Mansion, and designed by architect G. B. Mhatre in collaboration with Contractor Kanga & Co.

Eyebrows, Rajesh Mansion

The cantilevered ledge located above windows is referred to as eyebrows. Their main purpose is to block direct sunlight and shade the interiors. By using clusters of eyebrows, architects used them to accentuate the rhythmic horizontality of buildings, including at Rajesh Mansion.

Lettering, Rajjab Mahal

Rajjab Mahal, 144 Maharshi Karve Road, Churchgate. The lettering of the building is a variation of the Playbill font, rounded and made in wood.

Zigzag wave frieze over entrance, Rajjab Mahal

Rajjab Mahal was designed by Merwanji Bana & Co. The building is named after its owner Dr. Rajjab Ali Patel.

Window grille detail, Rajjab Mahal

Street level windows animated by diagonal mullions, Rajjab Mahal.

Sunburst Motif on the balcony railing, Rajjab Mahal

Chevron motif on balcony grille and zigzag wave frieze in azure and green color above the entrance, Rajjab Mahal.

Sunburst rays on window mullion, Rajjab Mahal

Bas relief panel with abstract geometric sunburst rays further echoed in the design of the window, Rajjab Mahal.

Shiv Shanti Bhuvan

Shiv Shanti Bhuvan, 146 Maharshi Karve Road, Churchgate. Architect: Merwanji Bana & Co.

Sunburst motif on the balcony railing, Shiv Shanti Bhuvan

Geometric sunburst rays on balcony grille, Shiv Shanti Bhuvan.

Chevron motif, Shiv Shanti Bhuvan

Chevron motif (inverted V-shaped with strong angular repetitive pattern), Shiv Shanti Bhuvan.

Lettering, Shiv Shanti Bhuvan

Roman serif variant font used for lettering, Shiv Shanti Bhuvan.

UNESCO plaque at Shiv Shanti Bhuvan

UNESCO plaque at Shiv Shanti Bhuvan, recognizing the building as part of the Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensembles of Mumbai in 2018.

Triple eyebrows, Shiv Shanti Bhuvan

Three semicircular eyebrows (a horizontal ledge extending outward above a window) emphasize the faceted corner at the intersection of Maharshi Karve Road and HT Parekh Marg, Shiv Shanti Bhuvan.

Glass panel on the central stairway, Shiv Shanti Bhuvan

Glass panel along the central stairway exhibits a sunburst motif, Shiv Shanti Bhuvan.

Entrance, Swastik Court

Swastik Court, 132 Maharshi Karve Road, Churchgate. Designed by the architectural firm Sykes, Patkar & Divecha. Varjiwandas Motilal Saraiya, the original owner, named the building ‘Swastika’, an auspicious symbol widely revered in several South Asian cultures.

Lettering, Swastik Court

Bas relief panels exhibit tropical fauna, Swastik Court. The three-panel design on the front façade was originally made from colourcrete but had been plastered over during previous interventions. They were revealed during the latest restoration of the building.

Curvilinear balconies, Swastik Court

Geometric designs on porch railing of compound wall, Swastik Court.

Chevron motif on window grille, Swastik Court

Curvilinear balconies with chevron motif, Swastik Court.

Lettering and entrance, Windsor House

Windsor House, 138 Maharshi Karve Road, Churchgate. It was designed by the architect firm: Gregson, Batley & King.

Lettering, Windsor House

Windsor House uses a wood-cut font for lettering. The building is named after the House of Windsor, the reigning royal house of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth realms.

Curvilinear balconies, Windsor House

Curvilinear balconies with projecting eyebrows (a horizontal ledge extending outward above a window), Windsor House.

Porch railing, Windsor House

Balustrade along compound wall, Windsor House.

Etching of Art Deco buildings along Maharshi Karve Marg

Elevation drawings of Art Deco buildings along Maharshi Karve Road. Seen here are Queen's Court, Green Fields, Swastik Court and Motabhoy Mansion. These were all built in the 1930s decade, during a flurry of building activity on land reclaimed from the Arabian Sea as part of the Back Bay Land Reclamation Scheme, which started in 1928.

Etching of Art Deco buildings

Elevation drawings of Palm Court, Oval View and Belvedere Court. The stretch of reclaimed land around Churchgate Station underwent planned development in the 1930s. As a result of strict regulations, Maharshi Karve Marg has a dense concentration of Art Deco buildings, all built in uniform height and use common design idioms.

Victorian Gothic and Art Deco ensembles of Mumbai

Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensembles of Mumbai were recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage sites in 2018. The Art Deco buildings lie along Maharshi Karve Marg, and they face the Victorian Gothic buildings across the Oval Maidan, which consist of the Public Works Department, Bombay High Court and University Library and Convocation Hall.