Lights at CST: Masterstroke or mistake?
In a bid to attract tourists, the Ministry of Tourism has sanctioned a Rs 4.86-crore project to light up Mumbai’s iconic Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. Citizens share their diverse views on this proposal.
Photo Editor, National Geographic India
It is a good point of focus to bring in tourists. One hopes it’s not some misguided act like most ‘beautification’ drives here are. The novelty of the lighting will wear off soon, much like it will at the Gateway of India. So, the point is how do you sustain an interest in heritage issues.
People will get photographed against a building lit up, interestingly, but not look closely at the building, and if that were to be the case it would be a lot of money down the drain, and an opportunity at long-term engagement lost. Caring would require deeper engagement. Walking tours inside the CST station building (which are about a different sort of engagement with the monument) were a huge hit when it started but then, many things these days are fads, and we are incapable of sustaining endeavours.
Illuminating our landmarks is always good. It reflects with pride heritage that we have inherited. Few European cities have a lighting scheme for its architecture, and it highlights the skyline. In our case, it is good to have a building illuminated gracefully, showcasing its architectural splendours. The public can admire it after dark, sans the traffic. Personally, I am not a fan of multi-colour lighting for festivals and public holidays, as it does no justice to the monument. Subtle lighting would be the best. The Gateway of India is lit with multi-coloured lighting; Rajabai Tower had similar experiments a few years ago. It should not become Disney World. We have a rich ensemble of Victorian and Art Deco buildings, so lighting should be done cohesively, rather than piece meal. Ideally, it should be done when the external restoration is over as other wise, wrong details, like broken glass panes might be seen. Tourism doesn’t get augmented by lighting but with better infrastructure and experiential quality.
The news of the illumination is promising. If it is well thought through and designed, it will add to the charm of the 126-year-old-structure. When the Bombay, Baroda & Central India (BB&CI) Railway Administrative Offices at Churchgate were lit up in April 2013, in celebration of 160 years of the Indian Railways, there were many visitors to the building who had access to the compound, and could wander around and take photographs. Funds must also be allocated for the preservation of the structures, particularly the interiors, which are usually neglected. At the Victoria Terminus, a lot of the original, rich flooring has been removed and replaced with forgettable monotone tiles. This is a shame.
Proprietor, Jamaat Art Gallery
The station is lit beautifully with elegant, soft, warm lights. It’s good enough to woo tourists. Multi-coloured lights can be garish, like what’s done at the Gateway of India. It looks hideous, dressed in greens and pinks. I know of tourists who were put off by the Disney World-like colours such that that they don’t wish to visit the Gateway at night. The money should be spent to improve tracks, platforms and facilities. Why not offer more food options or resting facilities instead?
Professor, Sir JJ School of Architecture
I am neutral about this. Lighting a building also helps light up its immediate vicinity, thereby improving safety and public perception of a space in the night time; it would be sort of like introducing street lighting. On the other hand, the lighting up of iconic buildings merely serves to make them visible at night time.
Managing Trustee and Honorary Director, Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum
It’s a good idea. It is the only World Heritage Site in Mumbai city so it deserves special attention. But it is important that CST does not deflect attention from important conservation issues. There have been too many scandals, from incorrect conservation that has damaged the building to trying to de-notify the site so they could build a high rise. The authorities need to be more serious about the proper way to manage buildings and important industrial heritage of the country that it represents.
Abha Narain Lambah
It’s a good idea. Even the BMC headquarters is being illuminated with energy saving LED lights this month in time for its 125th completion, on July 31.