Putting Mumbai on the map

Updated: Oct 12, 2019, 08:20 IST | Dalreen Ramos

Highlighting the city's resplendent Victorian Gothic and Art Deco ensembles, a non-profit will release a pocket-friendly map with a collection of 92 buildings

The fate of the Esplanade Mansion, one of the oldest surviving cast iron structures in the world, continues to hang in uncertainty. It's perhaps only a reminder that what little is left of the city's heritage might soon turn to dust tomorrow — unless, of course, along with taking authorities to task, we hold ourselves accountable, too. But generating awareness about the architectural jewels around is no simple task; it doesn't involve reducing structures to mere selfie points but requires an approach that enables inhabitants to absorb facts through observation. And so, a map might come in handy.

On Monday, Art Deco Mumbai Trust (ADMT), a public charitable trust, will release a map of the Victorian Gothic and Art Deco ensembles of the city, a UNESCO World Heritage precinct, at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS). It will be available for R99 and features 92 buildings of four architectural styles with the Oval Maidan and Wellington Fountain, spanning 66 hectares. "This isn't about a single structure, it's an entire precinct that's a heritage site. It's also the city's identity. The challenge was to capture so many buildings and their styles," says Atul Kumar, founder trustee of ADMT. A film by the FORT Foundation, a stakeholder initiative, will also be released at the event showcasing the precinct and will be uploaded on YouTube as well.

An aerial shot of the heritage precinct
An aerial shot of the heritage precinct

The map has been in the works for a year, and is designed by Shubhika Malara, a 23-year-old communication and design practitioner with the trust. Pocket-sized when folded and slightly larger than an A3 sheet, it includes the style of the building, name of the architect, three walking tours around the area and a section on how to identify Art Deco — like making sense of the frozen fountains, sun burst or sea wave motifs. Using watercolour, Malara has also illustrated some of the finest examples of the four styles: Art Deco, Indo-Saracenic, Victorian Gothic and Neo Classical. "The quality of the line drawn mattered as did the colours. And sometimes I couldn't get the consistency I wanted, so I had to work on it digitally," the designer explains.

Acknowledging the Victorian Gothic style as the most difficult to illustrate given the intricacy involved, Malara breaks down her process, "The first step was to look at case studies on maps. There's an international coalition of Art Deco societies, some of which have Art Deco maps, which I found helpful. After that we ideated on the content. But the most important part was that of user testing." This involved asking people if the font size was user-friendly or if the map was too big to carry. It required about 12 iterations.

Shubhika Malara and Atul Kumar
Shubhika Malara and Atul Kumar

For Malara, who hails from Jalgaon and has a degree in public space design, working on a project on Mumbai's heritage precinct proved to be a refreshing experience. She shares, "With Art Deco there is beauty in everything — even the tiny grills relate to the larger fabric of the city. It also appears that the architects were very mindful of the light and ventilation. Every functional object has art in it; the facade, too. And combining this style with the other three reflects the diversity of the city."

On October 14, 6 pm
At CSMVS, Mahatma Gandhi Road, Fort.
RSVP facebook.com/events/ 2404132603134965/

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