BUILDINGS of Victorian and Art Deco architectural styles, stretching from Marine Drive to Fort in south Mumbai, on Saturday jointly made it to the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. This is the first world heritage site that flaunts a combination of 19th century Victorian structures and 20th century Art Deco buildings. The site is home to buildings such as the Bombay High Court, Mumbai University, Old Secretariat, Elphinstone College, David Sassoon Library, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Western Railways headquarters, Maharashtra Police headquarters, Oval Maidan, Art Deco buildings of Backbay Reclamation scheme, Cricket Club of India, Ram Mahal along Dinshaw Wacha Road, Eros and Regal cinemas and the first row of buildings along Marine Drive.
This is the third such honour for Mumbai after the Elephanta Caves and Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station found place in the world heritage site list in 1987 and 2004, respectively.
At Manama in Bahrain, where the 42nd UNESCO World Heritage Committee meeting was held on Saturday, France termed the Mumbai dossier as “magnificent” while Azerbaijan described it as “perfect”, noticing that despite two decades or urban development, the city has been able to preserve the heritage site.
While the first tentative nomination for the world heritage site was submitted to the Union Ministry of Culture in 2014, it was in 2017 that the ministry decided to nominate Mumbai.
Across India, there are now 37 world heritage sites, making it the seventh ranked country in the list of world heritage properties. With five sites, Maharashtra has the maximum number of sites in India and Mumbai accounts for three of them.
Conservation architect Abha Narain Lambah, who prepared the nomination dossier, had first presented this idea at a UNESCO Conference on Modern Architecture in Chandigarh in 2014. “What favoured our dossier was that despite urban development for the last 20 years, Mumbai has managed to preserve this site. The very fact that Mumbai became first city in India in 1995 to regulate heritage regulations has been appreciated by UNESCO,” said Lambha.
She said Miami and Jerusalem are known for beautiful art deco buildings, and Canada and London for their Victorian buildings. “Mumbai alone has a combination of both. In this heritage site, they are facing each other in a dialogue.”
The 1,500-page dossier contained historical narrative and drawings of all the 94 buildings located at the site. Eric Falt, UNESCO Director and representative in India, said: “This is an excellent nomination dossier that highlights outstanding universal value of these groups of buildings, which are now officially on world heritage site list”.
While submitting the nomination to the ministry in 2015, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had observed that getting such a tag will bring Mumbai on the international tourist map and help attract investment on the lines of London and European. “This nomination acknowledges the wealth of India’s 19th and 20th century architecture in historic city centres such as Mumbai, Kolkata and Delhi,” said Raghvendra Singh, Secretary, Ministry of Culture.