So we leisurely worked our way into turning (no, crafting) Malabar Hill and Nariman Point into Manhattan version 2.0 while everyone else built like there was no tomorrow. The building boom took time to snowball here. In fact, it first started off as a few odd snowflakes before Mumbai got bitten by the tall building bug and caught the skyscraper fever.
From then to now: Mumbai’s tallest buildings
Disclaimer: we’re not going to tell you about the first person who built a house with two floors in Mumbai. Nobody knows that and frankly, if you did, people would think you need to sort out your priorities. What we’re here to tell you about are little known facts about Mumbai’s superstars. You know, the big ones where people go to ooh and aah over the view (and sometimes, unwisely, try to commit suicide from).
Luckily for us, Mumbai kicked off early enough for us to take you through more than a century of tall buildings.
1878 – Rajabai Clock Tower
Height: 85 metres
Designed to look like Big Ben, Rajabai Clock Tower was Mumbai’s tallest building for 90 years. Not only was it Mumbai’s tallest building, but it played sixteen different tunes – which it changed four times a day – when it came to marking the quarter hour. Nowadays it plays one tune, but the building is just as iconic as when it was first built.
1961 – Usha Kiran and Matru Mandir Building.
Height: 86 metres
The story of Usha Kiran and Matru Mandir is a complex one. Matru Mandir had its foundation built first, claiming the title of “India’s First Skyscraper”. And then they stopped building. Usha Kiran was built and finished before Matru Mandir, so really, they should have won the title. Unfortunately, we don’t have photo finishes for buildings, just for horse races, so we’ll never know who really won.
The height by which they outdid Rajabai Clocktower? One meter.
The rest of Mumbai was still so short at the time that the view from Usha Kiran was to die for. A 25 storey building today may hardly raise eyebrows, but back at the beginning of the building boom, it was a big deal. For ten years.
1970 – The World Trade Centre Mumbai, Cuffe Parade
Height: 156 metres
It was one of the tallest buildings in South Asia when it was built. It also became the tallest all-office building in Mumbai upon completion. Back in the ‘seventies, people ran tours to Cuffe Parade just so people would come and gawk and exclaim with awe and wonder at the tall buildings. Nowadays, people visit it to fight over pricey clothes. Or to dress up as Batman for Mumbai’s Comic Con.
2008 – Planet Godrej, Mahalaxmi
Height: 181 metres
The building is so tall that people living on the higher floors of the building often find themselves paying roaming charges for their mobile phone usage. Four of its five wings are named after the different layers of the planet: Terra, Aqua, Strata and Celesta. The fifth wing, Electra is the odd one out, referring (probably) to the mythical Greek character Elektra. Hopefully, it won’t turn out the same way she did.
2009 – Imperial Towers 1 & 2, Tardeo
Height: 254 metres
Also the tallest completed buildings in the country and described by some as “great ball point pens sticking into the sky”. Don’t let people trick you into thinking that the observation decks on these buildings are open to the public. They aren’t. In Mumbai, views come with a hefty price tag and these observation decks are open to residents only.
Tall Dreams: Mumbai’s future buildings
A new decade brings new buildings, each reaching for new spectacular heights. Mumbai’s new decade in tall buildings moved from the realm of “just” tall to “supertall” and how!
2013 – Palais Royale, Lower Parel. India’s first supertall structure
Height: 320 metres
It took forty years for India to really get into the supertall building groove. Palais Royale is a building worth boasting about because its also India’s first LEED Platinum certified residential building. Which is a complicated way of saying that it’s an eco-friendly green building and the best of its kind at that.
2015 – World One, Upper Worli. India’s tallest residential building
Height: 442 metres
Let’s count all the records this building breaks. It’s:
1) India’s tallest building
2) India’s tallest residential building
3) India’s tallest residential building with the fastest elevators in India
4) Armani/Casa’s first project in India
5) India’s first building to have its own weather patterns.
Yes we’re stretching it, but who cares? It’s a great building! It’s green and eco-friendly and tall. And a sign that India has finally made it onto the world’s radar as a formidable force of tall buildings. Of course, those plans might go bust if Dubai ever gets round to building its Pentominium building, but we can always bask in the glory till…
2016 – The India Tower, Marine Lines. India’s tallest building
Height: 720 metres
It’s also currently the tallest building in the world under construction. We’ll let you absorb that information for a little while. If the building is completed, however, it will probably come to be associated with Mumbai in the same way people associate the Eiffel Tower with Paris. It gives new meaning to the words “eclipse” and “dwarf” and “huge”, because compared to it, every other building in Mumbai pales into insignificance.
Bonus: Iconic Tall Buildings of Mumbai
Some of Mumbai’s iconic buildings surprisingly fall short of the “tallest building” mark. However, looking through Mumbai’s tallest buildings without including these famous skyscrapers seemed like an unfinished piece. So we included these well-known buildings in the mix for your viewing pleasure.
1974 – The Air India Building, Nariman Point
Height: 105 metres
Possibly the most easily recognizable building on Nariman Point, with a prancing centaur atop its roof visible all the way at the start of Marine Drive. The building was also the first to have an escalator in India. These days the building runs at less than its usual capacity, a sad victim to the financial travails of Air India.
1973 – The Oberoi Trident Hotel, Nariman Point
Height: 117 metres
Not the tallest building around here, blending rather well with its natural habitat at Nariman Point with its stereotypically tall rectangular shapes and silvery paint. Behind this rather ordinary facade, however, lies one of the world’s top 100 hotels. It’s unassuming exterior hides one of the world’s best luxury hotels, on par with our familiar favourite, the Taj.
2010 – Antilla, Altamount Road
Height: 173 metres
Designed to look like a stack of books, this is probably the most divisive building in Mumbai. You either hate it or love it but, as the saying goes, you can’t ignore it. It may not be the tallest building in Mumbai, but its the world’s most expensive home. Hardly unexpected for a home which requires 600 people to look after it, has its own temple and a garage which can hold nearly two hundred cars. It also has three helipads. You know, so the rich can skip the traffic and make it to soirees without suffering road rage like the rest of us.
2012 – Lodha Bellissimo, Mahalaxmi
Height: 222 metres
The Imperial Towers may be Mumbai’s most expensive residential address, but Lodha Bellissimo is its most exclusive. Only those deemed worthy are invited to walk its hallowed halls and take up residence in luxurious flats. Or, if you’re really worthy, an exclusive penthouse so private you get your own elevator – accessed by fingerprints – going up to your home. It’s other boastworthy feature? It’s currently the second tallest building Mumbai.
So although Mumbai’s skyscraper-spree started out as a few odd snowflakes here and there, it ended in a blizzard. Well not ended. We’re still thick in the middle of our skyscraper blizzard.