Sans Souci on Victoria Road, today’s Masina Hospital

The photo exhibition curated by Tasneem Zakaria Mehta comes from an album presented to the British Library in 2012 by Edwina and Sybil Sassoon, descendants of the great merchant family whose history is closely connected with that of 19th century Mumbai (then Bombay). The album is a rare treat and a documentation of Mumbai’s domestic architecture. This event showcases 43 properties spread across Byculla, Fort and Malabar Hill. This unique record of styles have now almost entirely disappeared from the city’s landscape. Conservation architect and INTACH Co-Convenor Vikas Dilawari’s inputs also helped in organising this exhibition.

Dady’s Buildings on Forbes Street, Fort. Pics Courtesy/ British Library

The Sassoon properties give us an indication of the adaptations made to 19th century European architectural styles to accommodate the city’s tropical climate and its geographical location. Plans exhibited deep verandahs, projecting eaves and special awnings to allow for ventilation. Stately mansions had beautifully carved teakwood screens to protect their inhabitants from the glare of the sun. It’s possible to imagine how gardens, drive-ins and porches were designed as seen in Sans Souci, now the Masina Hospital. These photographs act as stunning reminders of a more passive time, one where nature and craftsmanship complimented architectural elegance and community aesthetics. Most of these buildings rose prior to 1857, hence, there is no obvious British style visible in these plans.

Malabar Castle on Malabar Hill 

The exhibition will be open to the public at the Special Projects Centre of the Museum complex.
till November 24; time 10 am to 6 pm (last ticket: 5.30 pm, closed on certain public holidays), at Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Dr Ambedkar Road, Byculla (East).  

Sassoon’s Clock and Tower at Victoria Gardens, today’s Rani Baug complex that also houses the Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum, formerly known as the Victoria and Albert Museum