D.N. Road, a North–South commercial arterial road, starting from the Crawford Market, linking Victoria Terminus, leads to the Flora Fountain at the southern end of the road. Taking a walk down the road in South Mumbai, one will notice that the entire stretch of the road is studded with Neo–Classical and Gothic Revival buildings and parks built in the 19th century, intermingled with modern office buildings and commercial establishments. These buildings have stood the test of time and a few are very well maintained especially those that house Banks and Financial Institutions whereas some of the buildings are desperately in need of repairs. Some of the striking buildings on DN Road are:
The Victoria Terminus, designed by Frederick William Stevens, initially named in honour of the then Queen and Empress Victoria, in 1887, was renamed Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in 1996. Its architecture depicts figurines of “progress” and “prosperity” with a variety of sculpted animals and birds.
Times of India building, founded in 1838 and located opposite to the Victoria Terminus, is a heritage structure which houses offices of the Times of India news paper. The structure, which was subject to aggressive marine environment of Mumbai since 1901, has undergone many structural and architectural modifications.
The Crawford Market, located at the start of the D.N.Road, is a blend of Flemish and Norman architecture with a bas–relief built of coarse Coorla rubble, relieved by bright red stone from Bassein. The friezes on the outside and the fountains inside were designed by Lockwood Kipling, father of the novelist Rudyard Kipling.
These buildings reflect the quality of construction during that period, which was excellent and hence, several such buildings which were built during the British rule have stood the test of time. They are as strong as any other building, which have been built in the last ten to fifteen years, elsewhere in the city of Mumbai. There have been cases where buildings built 20 years ago or less have fallen apart. Heritage buildings need to be preserved, mainly, because it talks about the rich heritage of the city besides offering an interesting architectural facade.
Globally cities like London, Paris, Geneva have similar buildings and they have been beautifully maintained/restored and decorated with the latest of interiors. The scenario is unfortunately not the same here. If these districts are restored to its original historic glory, it can serve as an attractive tourist destination. In parts of the old city a few heritage buildings have been preserved, but either the access or neighbouring sites are of very poor quality, which makes it difficult to reach out and attract tourists or for making it a good source of revenue. It might be pertinent for the users and owners of such buildings to rethink their current usage and decide whether it ought to be changed. The Administrative block in the famous VT Station is an architectural marvel and rather than it being used to house the administration, it could become a museum lending tourists an opportunity to view and experience it and thereby generating income. A challenging task for architects would be to check how they fit in new requirements of the 21st Century in a building which was built in the 19th Century. Some of the buildings have been renovated successfully by architects especially where International Banks operate. These buildings appear to be brand new structures of 1898 from outside while once one steps inside, it feels as if one is transported to 2014 with plush modern interiors with the best of fitouts and fixtures inside. Serious thought needs to be given to restore such historic buildings to be reused according the needs of changing times.
Restoration is one special field where a handful of architects are specialized. Restoration is defined as the act or process of accurately depicting the form, features, and character of a property as it appeared at a particular period of time by means of the removal of features from other periods in its history and reconstruction of missing features from the restoration period. The limited and sensitive upgrading of mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems and other code-required work to make properties functional is appropriate within a restoration project.
This piece has been written by Sibani Chakravarty Sarma, Founder-CEO Gallopper.com