Monday 10 December 2007

Postcard of the Day No. 11 - Mumbai Gothic

Searching for a postcard of St Pancras Station, this view of Municipal Hall and Victoria Terminus, Bombay came to light. It was timely because I’ve been reading with some fascination, “Bombay Gothic” by Christopher London. Both these buildings are the work of the same architect, Frederick William Stevens (1848-1900). Victoria Terminus (VT) built for the Great India Peninsular Railway came first and was completed in 1888; the Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC) was constructed between 1888 and 1893. The BMC was designed to be 20 feet taller than the neighbouring railway station. The architect, Stevens, spent virtually his entire working life in India and with these two structures he created twin edifices of polychromed, finialed, crocketed, gargoyled, inventively carved masonry in the idiom of the Gothic Revival that serve as perfect embodiments of the imposition of imperial power. Like St. Pancras, the station came complete with portes-cochères for the convenience of passengers arriving via horse drawn carriage. Both buildings survive in good order to this day and form a significant element in the architectural heritage of India’s most dynamic city. Victoria Terminus (now known as Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in honour of a Maratha warrior) has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2004. 2.5 million commuters pass through the station every day. When I last looked there were 987 photographs of the station to be seen on flickr, which suggests the building has lost none of its power to fascinate. Acknowledgements to “Bombay Gothic” for much of this information.

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