Mustansir Dalvi

Volume 9, Issue 2, December 2022
pp. 8 – 25

Mustansir Dalvi is Professor of Architecture at Sir J.J. College of Architecture. His doctoral research, for which he received a PhD from the IIT-Bombay (IDC), examined Bombay’s Art Deco architecture from a semiotic perspective. He is the author of The Romance of Red Stone: An Appreciation of Ornament on Islamic Architecture in India (Super Book House), and The Past as Present: pedagogical practices in architecture at the Bombay School of Art (Sir JJ College of Architecture/UDRI). He is the editor of 20th Century Compulsions: Modern Indian Architecture from the MARG Archives (MARG) a collection of writings about early Indian modernist architecture. Over the years, Mustansir’s research has been published in New Architecture and Urbanism: Development of Indian Traditions (INTBAU), Buildings that shaped Bombay: The Architecture of G. B. Mhatre (UDRI), and Mulk Raj Anand: Shaping the Indian Modern (MARG). Dalvi is also an archivist, a curator and columnist, and a published poet.


This essay is an attempt to trace the rise of Gothic Revival architecture in Bombay through a deep reading of its university buildings. The Gothic Revival in India can be seen as a moral imperative to supplant the proclivity for the Classical style. For the ruling elite, the Gothic was seen as true, nationalistic and a Christian alternative. Bombay’s native citizens played a prominent role its business and financial affairs. The munificence of Cowasjee Jehangir and Premchand Roychand financed the construction of the University Buildings. Gilbert Scott, the greatest exponent of neo-Gothic architecture of the time, was approached to design the Senate Hall, Library and Clock Tower. His designs were an eclectic mix of Gothic Styles across Europe adapted to Bombay’s tropical climate and the ornament was secularized. These attempts an adapted Gothic clearly foreground an imperial agenda. These buildings stand as testimony to the establishment of the British Empire in India and its complete dominance on the subject populations through the twin hegemonies of education and architecture.

Gothic Revival, Mumbai, Bombay, Mumbai University, Gilbert Scott