Mumbai's architectural heritage through roofs of iconic structures

Jan 28, 2016, 13:00 IST | Dipanjan Sinha

A new media exhibition of 33 structures celebrates stunning and diverse influences in the architecture of domes that decorate some of Mumbai's finest landmarks

What is this life, if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare… and certainly not at the ceiling in a fast metropolis. International media artists Sarah Kenderdine, Berndt Lintermann and Jeffrey Shaw, however, spent hours staring at the ceilings in the city and have brought to us stories of a diverse and rich Mumbai through their mixed media exhibition, Look Up Mumbai. The team, in partnership with the Jindal South West Foundation and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS), will exhibit the installation at the museum starting today. The allure of the ceilings, Kenderdine says, is the unrivalled architectural heritage.

The ceiling of the chapel at St Xavier’s College. The dome of this college features in the exhibition,  Look Up Mumbai
The ceiling of the chapel at St Xavier’s College. The dome of this college features in the exhibition, Look Up Mumbai

City of domes
"The city has one of the largest representations of the grand neo-Gothic style of architecture, numerous examples of Indo-Saracenic architecture, and one of the world’s largest cluster of Art Deco buildings. While the British influence on buildings is evident from the colonial era, the architectural features include a range of other influences such as German gables, Dutch roofs, Swiss timbering, Romance arches and Tudor casements often interfused with traditional Indian features," she explains.

The dome of Siddhivinayak temple
The dome of Siddhivinayak temple

Their work, she says, brings forth the diverse cultural history of the city through imprints of different communities that they explore through these structures. "Mumbai contains a mélange of different religious groups, reflected in the array of sacred spaces — temples, pagodas, churches and synagogues. We focus on the city’s internal heterogeneity, and through its ceilings, encounter the successive waves of influence, where each building plays a role in the historical diversity," she says.

The dome lab at CSMVS which  will host the exhibition
The dome lab at CSMVS which will host the exhibition

The installation, she says, sets out to relocate these ceilings and refocus our attention to the heart of the multi-cultural richness of the city. "The hemispherical artwork and its oscillations concentrate on the diversity of these structures as objects of aesthetic allure and technological wonder," she says.

New media artist Sarah Kenderdine at work at Adishwarji Jain Temple
New media artist Sarah Kenderdine at work at Adishwarji Jain Temple

The journey started when Sangita Jindal, chairman of JSW Foundation, decided to bring exceptional new media experiences for the people of Mumbai. In 2012, together with Foundation and Museum Victoria of Australia, Shaw and Kenderdine built the award-winning PLACE-Hampi installation placed at the Kaladhan museum in Vijayanagar. The success of the venture led them to the their next project in Mumbai.

The roof of Gateway of India. PICS COURTESY/JSW FOUNDATION
The roof of Gateway of India. Pics Courtesy/JSW Foundation

Up and running
CSMVS, an example of the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture, where the exhibition will take place, was an inspiration for the project. "The museum houses an awe-inspiring 18-metre wide ceiling which was an inspiration for Look Up Mumbai. The six-metre digital dome used for the installation is erected directly under the dome of the museum, three floors below in the atrium," Kenderdine informs. The digital dome, Kenderdine developed at her lab at the University of New South Wales and is the highest resolution touring fulldome in the world.

Knesset Eliyahoo Synagogue in Kala Ghoda
Knesset Eliyahoo Synagogue in Kala Ghoda

Sabyasachi Mukeerjee, Director-General, CSMVS, was unequivocal in his support. "We are keen on supporting this initiative as it fits in perfectly with our objective of improving the visitor experience. Look Up Mumbai brings the museum-going experience into the digital age by incorporating technology without compromising on the principles of modern museum practices."

The final list of 33 structures was framed by the team and architecture historian and coordinator of the project, Preeti Goel Sanghi, and includes the chapel at St Xavier’s College, Knesset Eliyahoo Synagogue and the Siddhivinayak Temple among others. Enjoy viewing it while listening to music by Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma.

From: Today, 10.15 am to 6 pm
At: CSMVS, Mahatma Gandhi Road, Kala Ghoda, Fort
Call: 22844484

The science behind the art

Kenderdine shares that the process of capturing images for the project was a challenge in itself. The technique used to capture spherical images at ultra high resolution is called ‘gigapixel’ imaging. This involves making mosaics of a large number of high-resolution digital photographs that are subsequently stitched together using software. “Since we needed to account for the varying light levels in any building, shots were often taken at multiple exposures. In all, hundreds of images were shot for each building, often requiring 30 minutes of photography to create a single panorama of the space. It was important that nothing moved in the scene when the images were being taken as moving objects could result in a glitch in the image, obscuring important detail. We became experts in moving out of the way of the automatically rotating and firing camera,” she recollects.

Buildings featured
>> Adishwarji Jain Temple
>> Afghan Church
>> Asiatic Library
>> Bhawani Shankar Temple
>> Bombay High Court
>> Cathedral of Holy Name
>> Chhatrapati Shivaji international Airport, Terminal 2
>> Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya
>> Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST)
>> Cowasjee Jehangir Convocation Hall
>> David Sasoon Library
>> Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum
>> Elephanta Caves
>> General Post Office (GPO)
>> Global Vipassana Pagoda
>> Haji Ali Dargah
>> Horniman Circle garden
>> Hotel Sahara Star
>> Institute of Science
>> J N Petit Library
>> JSW Centre
>> Kapoor Lamp Shades
>> Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue
>> Mount Mary Bascilica
>> Mumbai University Clock Tower
>> Municipal Corporation Building
>> National Centre Performing

>> National Gallery of Modern Art
>> Portuguese Church
>> Siddhivinayak temple
>> St Xavier College Chapel
>> Taj Mahal Hotel
>> The Gateway of India

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