View of Mumbai from the 36th floor; South Tower; Imperial Towers

View of Mumbai from the 36th floor; South Tower; Imperial Towers

Looking down, looking out

In the mid eighties there was a short lived fad amongst the bourgeoisie of Tokyo to deny the city. Affected by its increasing congestion and urban decay, they collaborated with their architects to design houses that had no frontage on the road except for a neutral wall and door. Their lives and pleasures were turned totally inwards, and the interior space expressed everything. In the mid nineties, I attended a presentation by one of Mumbai’s leading architecture firms who had recently remodeled an old bungalow on Warden Road, walling up much of the street frontage, and to accommodate very expensive and showy interior spaces. Their justification: ‘What is there to see on the street?’ In the mid 2000s, much outrage was generated by Simi Garewal’s comments on the view from the rooftop bar of the Four Seasons Hotel lining the Race Course. Looking down on slums that formed a large part of the view on nearly three sides, she saw (or so she thought) many green flags here and there, which she described on a television channel as Pakistani. One decade after the millennium a new notion well entrenched in Mumbai’s new tall buildings is to have apartments only from the fifteenth floor upwards. As buildings rise in this city, they take their inhabitants further and further away from it. In the end, the city, for the denizens of luxury warrens and anthills is something to look out at rather than inhabit. The sweeping skyline of Mumbai’s western edge and the Arabian Sea, as seen from the Imperial Towers in Tardeo, is a coveted screensaver of the visual field, something for which a resident would be willing to pay a very hefty premium. At the base of Imperial Towers there are no Imperial Towers. There is no depth of frontage to perceive its rising forms. From Janta Nagar, at close range the neighboring middle height buildings largely obscure their view. Further away, the glory of its parking floors becomes visible. Its terraces are perceived in the finishes of their soffits. The buildings could be uninhabited, for all you know. The former slums have transmogrified into these twin edifices and the success of redevelopment can be measured by how few of those within are visible to the city outside. To see the building properly you have to depart from it. Chirodeep Chaudhuri’s images swing centrifugally further and further away from his chosen subject. To capture the Imperious Two he has to let them go, denying himself any proximity. Context is the cross he must bear, for context unfolds the means to read these buildings, Mumbai’s (once) tallest skyscrapers. The smaller they get, in his mise-en-scene, the more the city treats them with collective nonchalance. One more, or two. Business as usual. The grand vistas of the city, in the recent past, been systematically intruded upon by all manner of bye-laws in built form. For the hoi polloi, the great unwashed, the changing skyline of Mumbai is another dynamic screensaver that comes for free. Imperial Towers is an address to give a taxiwallah for tentative orientation. No one looks to these polydactyl phalluses in veneration.

In the mid eighties there was a short lived fad amongst the bourgeoisie of Tokyo to deny the city. Affected by its increasing congestion and urban decay, they collaborated with their architects to design houses that had no frontage on the road except for a neutral wall and door. Their lives and pleasures were turned totally inwards, and the interior space expressed everything. In the mid nineties, I attended a presentation by one of Mumbai’s leading architecture firms who had recently remodeled an old bungalow on Warden Road, walling up much of the street frontage, and to accommodate very expensive and showy interior spaces. Their justification: ‘What is there to see on the street?’ In the mid 2000s, much outrage was generated by Simi Garewal’s comments on the view from the rooftop bar of the Four Seasons Hotel lining the Race Course. Looking down on slums that formed a large part of the view on nearly three sides, she saw (or so she thought) many green flags here and there, which she described on a television

channel as Pakistani. One decade after the millennium a new notion well entrenched in Mumbai’s new tall buildings is to have apartments only from the fifteenth floor upwards. As buildings rise in this city, they take their inhabitants further and further away from it. In the end, the city, for the denizens of luxury warrens and anthills is something to look out at rather than inhabit. The sweeping skyline of Mumbai’s western edge and the Arabian Sea, as seen from the Imperial Towers in Tardeo, is a coveted screensaver of the visual field, something for which a resident would be willing to pay a very hefty premium. At the base of Imperial Towers there are no Imperial Towers. There is no depth of frontage to perceive its rising forms. From Janta Nagar, at close range the neighboring middle height buildings largely obscure their view. Further away, the glory of its parking floors becomes visible. Its terraces are perceived in the finishes of their soffits. The buildings could be uninhabited, for all

you know. The former slums have transmogrified into these twin edifices and the success of redevelopment can be measured by how few of those within are visible to the city outside. To see the building properly you have to depart from it. Chirodeep Chaudhuri’s images swing centrifugally further and further away from his chosen subject. To capture the Imperious Two he has to let them go, denying himself any proximity. Context is the cross he must bear, for context unfolds the means to read these buildings, Mumbai’s (once) tallest skyscrapers. The smaller they get, in his mise-en-scene, the more the city treats them with collective nonchalance. One more, or two. Business as usual. The grand vistas of the city, in the recent past, been systematically intruded upon by all manner of bye-laws in built form. For the hoi polloi, the great unwashed, the changing skyline of Mumbai is another dynamic screensaver that comes for free. Imperial Towers is an address to give a taxiwallah for tentative orientation. No one looks to these polydactyl

phalluses in veneration.

This introduction by Mustansir Dalvi appeared in the August 2012 issue of DOMUS. This introduction by Mustansir Dalvi appeared in the August 2012 issue of DOMUS.
As viewed from the terrace of Godwin Hotel. Garden Rd; Colaba

As viewed from the terrace of Godwin Hotel. Garden Rd; Colaba

As viewed from the Marine Drive flyover

As viewed from the Marine Drive flyover

As viewed from the Breach Candy Club; Warden Road

As viewed from the Amarson’s Park; Warden Road

As viewed from the Breach Candy Club; Warden Road

As viewed from the Breach Candy Club; Warden Road

As viewed from inside the Haji Ali Dargah

As viewed from inside the Haji Ali Dargah

As viewed from the Lotus Cinema Junction; Worli

As viewed from the Lotus Cinema Junction; Worli

As viewed from the 4th floor of Essar House; Mahalaxmi

As viewed from the 4th floor of Essar House; Mahalaxmi

As viewed on a monsoon day from the 4th floor of Essar House; Mahalaxmi

As viewed on a monsoon day from the 4th floor of Essar House; Mahalaxmi

As viewed from opposite Mahalaxmi station

As viewed from opposite Mahalaxmi station

As viewed from Jacob Circle

As viewed from Jacob Circle

As viewed from the flyover looking past the statue of Khada Parsi; Byculla (East)

As viewed from the flyover looking past the statue of Khada Parsi; Byculla (East)

View from the Pheonix Mills 2nd floor parking lot; Lower Parel

View from the Pheonix Mills 2nd floor parking lot; Lower Parel

As viewed from opposite Raghuvanshi Mills; Lower Parel

As viewed from opposite Raghuvanshi Mills; Lower Parel

As viewed from outside Lower Parel station

As viewed from outside Lower Parel station

As viewed from Alfred Talkies; Do Tanki

As viewed from Alfred Talkies; Do Tanki

As viewed from the terrace of Della Towers at Parsi Colony; Dadar

As viewed from the terrace of Della Towers at Parsi Colony; Dadar