‘Bombay Imagined’ documents what could have been

Beginning in 1670, “Bombay Imagined: An Illustrated History of the Unbuilt City” tells the story of 200 unrealized projects for the city – the aspirations of an evolved metropolis offering everything from human dwellings and

Beginning in 1670, “Bombay Imagined: An Illustrated History of the Unbuilt City” tells the story of 200 unrealized projects for the city – the aspirations of an evolved metropolis offering everything from human dwellings and expanded parks to ideas slightly more eccentric or even “radical”. as the author, says Robert Stephens. The pages of the book testify to ideas that never saw the light of day with drawings, contemporary speculations and artistic layering, illuminating what could have been. Each unrealized proposal is described with concise, creative and, at times, playful prose.

Researched and written by Robert Stephens, ‘Bombay Imagined’ was conceived in the “meditative depths of Mumbai’s local train in 2013 and matured through various lockdowns during the global coronavirus pandemic”.

When asked how the idea for the book had crossed his mind, Stephens cheekily said “oh just reading about drainage in Professional Papers on Indian Engineering, published in 1869 – you don’t do that?”

So it was this meandering journey through archival texts that culminated in a seven-year exploration, leading Robert to scour nearly five dozen archives, libraries and studios around the world in search of blueprints. for Mumbai which never materialized.

Skillfully crafted relief maps accompany each unrealized project within the larger geographic context of the city. Considered a flip book, these three-dimensional extrusions showcase Mumbai’s transformation from seven islands to its modern form.

Nearly two dozen institutions, foundations, and libraries around the world have shared rare, often unpublished, material for the book. The creative works of Aniket Umaria (Mumbai), Akhil Alukkaran (Calicut), Yannis Efstathiou (Berlin) and Lambros Papathanasiou (Athens) breathe visual life into 30 unrealized projects. Selected images are also reproduced from the Urbs Indis Library, Stephens’ personal collection of second-hand books on Mumbai, sourced from local vendors around the town of Flora Fountain and numerous booksellers around the world.

Along with the painstaking detail of the visualization of the projects inside the book, a great deal of thought has also gone into the cover itself – designed specifically for Mumbai’s formidable environment, a gray fabric-wrapped cover features an indulgent facade facing the city. atmospheric sand and grime. The title is hollow, the depth of which is revealed in the presence of light, like the projects it contains.

Overall, “Bombay Imagined” tells untold tales across the centuries and provides insight into the tides that have shaped our present-day Mumbai.