Category Archives: Facades

A royal riot

6 November, 2015
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Facades: Prince of Wales Seamen’s Club (1921)

The Royal Bombay Seamen’s Society, Ballard Estate.

While the Prince of Wales was busy inaugurating institutions named after himself in Bombay in November 1921, all was not well in the city during his visit.

Gandhi’s satyagraha volunteers had taken to the streets urging Bombay’s citizens to boycott the public reception of the Prince. Bonfires of foreign cloth were made in protest.

Things went awry when Gandhi’s volunteers clashed with the citizens who chose to attend the Prince’s reception, particularly the city’s Parsis and Europeans. A major riot ensued. Parsis and Europeans were identified by their distinct hats and western clothes and attacked by the volunteers.

Later in the day, the Parsis and Europeans regrouped and exacted retribution, identifying the volunteers by their Gandhi caps and khadi dress and shouting, ‘Gandhi topiwalllah ko pakro’, ‘maro salah ko’ (catch the Gandhi cap wearers, beat the rascals).

Hersh Acharya captures some of the responses the Prince of Wales currently elicits in Bombay.

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The inauguration of the exhibition ‘Deco on the Oval: Celebrating Bombay’s Best Loved Art Deco Facades’

31 July, 2015
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IMG_2304_1 1. A reconstructed elevation of Sorab Mansion, a prominent building in the Oval precinct.

IMG_2347_1 2. Ashad Mehta, chartered accountant and president of the Oval-Cooperage Residents Association (OCRA), standing alongside the elevation of Empress Court, in which he stays.

IMG_2343_13. Shirin Bharucha, lawyer, conservation activist and founding member of OCRA, alongside the elevation of Rusi Court, in which she stays.

IMG_2333_14. Gerson da Cunha, actor and former adman, alongside the elevation of Fair Lawn, in which he stays.

IMG_2320_1 5. Professor Mustansir Dalvi, curator of the exhibition, and noted senior architect Kamu Iyer stand alongside early photographs of the Oval buildings.

IMG_2362_1 6. Architect Shantanu Subramaniam and Smita Dalvi, Associate Professor at Pillai College of Architecture.

IMG_2326_1 7. Models of the famous Art Deco buildings on Miami Beach.

IMG_2330_1 8. Issues of Shilpasagar, the annual magazine of the Sir J. J. College of Architecture. The magazine is impressively launched each year with a video, presenting an overview of the issue.

IMG_24209. The collection of souvenirs available for sale at the exhibition are the finest we have ever seen (and bought).

IMG_2358_110. Mustansir Dalvi and the talented Exhibition Team.

Facades: The Claude Batley Gallery

Sir J.J. College of Architecture, 78/3 Hornby Road (presently D.N. Road).

The Art Deco buildings in Bombay’s Oval precinct get the attention they deserve at the exhibition ‘Deco on the Oval: Celebrating Bombay’s Best Loved Art Deco Facades’ at the Sir J. J. College of Architecture. The facades and details of the buildings have been meticulously and stylishly documented as a series of 17 elevations, drawn by the students of the College and curated by Professor Mustansir Dalvi. Dalvi’s curatorial note offers a historical context for the Art Deco boom in Bombay in the 1930s-40s as well as elucidates the value of the buildings:

“The Art Deco buildings on the Oval are special as they demonstrate, simultaneously, a collective language that creates an urban fabric while individually allowing full vent to creative expression, each competing with the other, either in flamboyance or subdued sophistication. This was the result of building regulations that made all the apartment blocks toe the same frontage, have the same height and floor lines, a prominent entrance and stairwell and a clear line of flat roofs. The rules, however seem to have liberated the architects rather than stifle them. Even within these framed parameters there is free expression of shape, pattern and symbolism, making these some of the most vocal facades in the city.”

‘Deco on the Oval’ is on at The Claude Batley Gallery, Sir J. J. College of Architecture, from 28th July to 15th August, 10am to 5pm.

Jazzy tunes from Naresh Fernandes’ Taj Mahal Foxtrot (Roli Books) will keep you in step with the structures at the exhibition.

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The battle of the knights

3 November, 2014
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Facades: Sir Hurkisondas Nurrotumdas Hospital (1925)

Facades: Sir Hurkisondas Nurrotumdas Hospital

(1925), presently Sir H. N. Reliance Foundation Hospital And Research Centre (2014), New Queen’s Road.

Sir Harkisondas Narotumdas is cross. He cannot fathom how some newbie knight called Sir H. N. Reliance could colonise his 89 year old medical establishment at New Queen’s Road.

Sir Harkisondas has dispatched a letter to Her Majesty for the immediate resolution of this grievous injustice.

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The Bombay Widow

5 May, 2014
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Façades: Allbless Widows’ Chawl

Murzban Colony, Gilder Street, Tardeo.

Early modern housing for widows in Bombay was custom made to their conjugal condition. Widows were accommodated in single rooms in structures called ‘chawls’ and paid the lowest rent on the plot. In contrast the rest of the housing project consisted of multi-room flats in ‘buildings’ that were designed to facilitate working class family life.

‘Widows’ were listed along with fitters, mechanics, clerks etc as the professions of the householders on the plot. Investing ‘widows’ with the social meaning of occupational activity was one of the few, feeble ways through which their presence was assimilated into the housing landscape.

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Gloria Faria

15 April, 2014
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Facades: Gloria Faria

Facades: Gloria Church (1913)
Byculla.

Guest Post by Naresh Fernandes.

Gloria Church contains a memorial stone to an almost-forgotten Bombay character: the Goan opium trader Sir Roger de Faria.
Faria made his fortune shipping opium to China, but lost his wealth rather suddenly. His decline had its roots in an event in 1834, when the Liberal government in Portugal appointed the first native-born Goan, Bernado Peres da Silva, as Prefect of Portuguese India. Within weeks of taking charge Peres was deposed by the territory’s whites and mestiços. He eventually made his way to Bombay, where his friend and host, Sir Roger, agreed to finance an expeditionary force to help him recapture office.

The five-ship force sailed out from Bombay harbour towards Goa on May 27, 1835 – and ran straight into the advancing monsoon. Two gunboats were wrecked and the rest of the sorry armada limped back to Bombay with heavy casualties. Peres was unable to pay back his debts to Sir Roger, tipping the opium trader into bankruptcy. He lived out the rest of his life on a pension granted to him by his friend Sir Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy.
When Sir Roger de Faria died in 1848, his funeral, writes Teresa Albuquerque, was attended by many beggars, “the poor, the aged, the halt and the blind”.

Naresh Fernandes is the editor of the digital daily Scroll.in and the author of City Adrift: A Short Biography of Bombay and Taj Mahal Foxtrot: The Story of Bombay’s Jazz Age. He is the conscience of our city.

Photo by Byculla boy Badani, whose first job was under Sir Fernandes’ editorship of Time Out magazine.

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