Take a tour of the city with a new Instagram project, that wants you to get floored, literally, by heritage tiles
Mumbai is not just kitsch. It is gothic and art deco. And, Mumbai is made of Minton tiles,” says Ruchita Madhok, graphic designer and co-founder of communication studio, Kahaani Designworks. On a mission to make us frenzied Mumbaikars pay a bit more attention to the city’s visual culture, the one right below our feet, Madhok and her team have taken to Instagram with a unique project.
Tiling Bombay illustrates and Instagrams heritage floors, revealing incredible kaleidoscopic patterns, rich colours (think warm ochres and earthy reds), and, most importantly, the durability of these tiles that have lasted for more than a century. So far, Tiling Bombay has covered various institutions, right from libraries to synagogues, in the Fort and Kala Ghoda area. “It is great to see how buildings we think are ‘sarkaari’ have the most beautiful tiling,” says Madhok, explaining how handmade encaustic tiles, are made of ceramic with patterns moulded into them. “This is what loans them their durability, since the patterns are not just superficial. In some tiles, they can be even half an inch in thickness,” she says.
As a journal of Mumbai’s visual language, the posts are all about detail – colour, shape and layouts; it wasn’t enough to just photograph and geo-tag tiled floors, of which they have covered 18 so far. Spotted a tiled floor somewhere? Ping them.
However, Madhok says that this tile history is one that is shared by several cities, which were once part of British colonies – Penang, Sydney, Melbourne and more in East Africa. Most of these tiles originated from Thomas Minton and Sons in the UK, more familiarly known as Minton. Why, even the Capitol Building in Washington DC boasts of Minton tiling. “While Minton tiles can be found across the world, they are found in significant numbers in Mumbai.
After all, it was the Urbz Prima in Indis – the first city of India,” says Madhok.
Log on to @storycityindia on Instagram to view Tiling Bombay
Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue, Kala Ghoda
Easily one of the most vivacious patterns to be seen through tiles, the Blue Synagogue’s flooring has been constructed piece by piece. The blue colour of the flowers is a reference to the colour symbolic of the Jews. “Sitting here is like being on a carpet of flowers. Add to this light coming in from the windows and cut-glass chandeliers,” says Madhok.
David Sassoon Library, Kala Ghoda
The foyer, unlike the rest of the library, is open to the public. The tiling bears a Chinese-inspired border. Madhok wonders if Sassoon’s trade links with China have any bearing on this.
JN Petit Library office, Dhobi Talao
“Each floor has different tiling patterns. The reading room on the ground floor is more plain; perhaps intended to help readers focus and not get distracted,” says Madhok.
Elphinstone College, Kala Ghoda
While the college may be off limits, the arcade area sees many a passer-by. The tiling here bears the same vibrant blue as the flowers at the Blue Synagogue, a little farther away.