Now, Mumbai's heritage is just a click away

IIT student launches online crowdsourced portal to decode the architectural and historical wealth of the city

Did you know that there are two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Mumbai? One is the CST building and, the other is Elephanta Caves. If you thought the Gateway of India is also one of them, then that’s exactly the kind of urban legend that Sitara Shah’s ongoing project hopes to dispel.

The Mumbai Heritage website uses architectural drawings to simplify details of heritage structures in the city, such as Gothic elements (left) and neo-classic columns
The Mumbai Heritage website uses architectural drawings to simplify details of heritage structures in the city, such as Gothic elements (left) and neo-classic columns

A student of IIT-Bombay’s Industrial Design Centre (IDC), Shah brings together Mumbai’s scattered heritage structures in a new website, along with details of about their architectural features, location and history.

Sitara Shah
Sitara Shah

Currently, the website (ww.mumbaiheritage.sitarashah.com) has details of seven heritage structures, but intends to rope in 590 such structures in the city.

Mumbai Heritage officially launched earlier this month after user-trials since November 2015.

“A lot of people who are interested in heritage sites aren’t aware of where to get information on them from. While there are several bloggers who actively write about heritage, it is hard to find information on one platform,” says Shah, a final-year post-graduate student of Interaction Design.

She speaks of the difficulties in accessing the 2012 heritage list on Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai’s (MCGM) website and on vintage maps at The Asiatic Society. “It is not easy to find the heritage list online and it's expensive for students to pay daily for access in a library.” However, Shah believes that the most important aspect is to remove cultural biases when it comes to heritage. “We are often prejudiced that some of these structures were built by the British colonial rulers. Instead, we need to see that these are constant reminders of human creativity,” she says.

Planned as an open platform where the public can contribute in terms of text and visuals, Mumbai Heritage’s key features include deconstructing the architecture of heritage sites. For example, it explains, with the use of architectural drawings, that CST has both Gothic and Indo-Sarcenic styles. Additionally, it shows other buildings in the city that have similar styles, much in the way that an online shopping portal might draw your interest. Then and now photos are also among these details. Shah plans to collaborate with urban planners and invite guest curators.

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