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Project Profile


2004 Award of Merit

Dadabhai Naoroji Road Streetscape 

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Project Title: Dadabhai Naoroji Road

Date of Completion:Signage regulation – May 2001 / Pilot street furniture project – August 2001

LocationFort Precinct, Mumbai, India

Cost: Approximately $10,000

Client: Signage Guidelines – Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority’s Heritage Conservation Society

Heritage Architect: Abha Narain Lambath

Contractor: Signage – None / Street Furniture – M/S Universal Designs

Project Synopsis

Dadabhai Naoroji Road, a 19th century streetscape characterized by arcaded bazaars and neo-classical buildings, is among the busiest commercial areas within Mumbai and presents perhaps the strongest image of a streetscape within the city.   The road is a primary north-south artery within the fort area, anchored by Crawford Market (Mahatma Phule Market) in the north, and by Flora Fountain in the south.  Other urban landmarks like Victoria Terminus (Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus) and Times of India building are also located here.  The road caters to a phenomenal influx of pedestrians that flow out of the Terminus building every day.

With the demolition of the Bombay Fort walls in the 1860s, large commercial plots became available along the western edge of Dadabhai Naoroji Road (then called Homby Road).  By the 1890s, fashionable new commercial buildings in Neo Classical and Gothic Revival designs had been constructed on these plots.  Each building was required to have a ground floor pedestrian arcade, which acted as the unifying element tying together the various building facades.

Over the decades, due to fierce competition between the street’s shopkeepers, the handsome colonial facades became completely concealed by unregulated signage such as billboards, signboards and other forms of advertisement.  Street furniture too left much to be desired with the design of road dividers, benches and other public amenities completely out of sync with the ambiance of the historic streetscape.

Designated as a Grade Il heritage streetscape as per the Heritage Regulations of Greater Bombay 1995, the area has immense value as a historic urban streetscape.   The objective of the project was, therefore, to restore the architectural integrity of the street with the regulation of the signboards and the inclusion of street furniture that complemented the neo-classical architecture.

Since the restoration, a veritable open-air exhibition of architectural facades representing various genres of the history of Mumbai can be witnessed along this single route.

Highlights of Conservation Approach

An initiative of the Mumbai Metropolitan Development Authority, the first phase of the conservation project resulted in the preparation of the first urban conservation guidelines in India by the appointed architect.  The preparation started with a survey of all buildings, preparing hand-drafted measured drawings of each façade.  Extensive surveys were conducted to analyse the relationship between the signage exhibited along the façade with respect to ownership, amount of space occupied in building, or the type of establishment (viz retail or institutional).  Finally a set of drawings were prepared, mapping the recommended location and design of each sign on every façade, taking care to ensure that every existing shopkeeper got a space to exhibit his sign in nearly the same square footage of the area that he previously had.  The Design Handbook for a Heritage Streetscape for Dadabhai Naoroji Road was completed in 1999.

Without waiting for government funding, the project architect worked in a voluntary capacity with the local shopkeepers, occupants and commercial establishments in the street and the local municipal officer to implement a voluntary regulation of the shop fronts and signage.  This was achieved for the entire western side of the streetscape by May 2001.

Both the signage relocation works and the installation of street furniture were completed with the voluntary and active participation of the local community.  Each individual establishment bore the expense of relocating and redesigning their shop sign.   The pilot project of implementing the street furniture along the 100-metre stretch, was sponsored by a local newspaper who bore the expense of fabricating and installing the cast iron street furniture designs along its building.

Community involvement has been the key factor in the success of this project.  Its implementation has been achieved in a participatory manner with the partnership between the municipal officers and local shopkeepers.  Throughout the project an open line of communication has been maintained between stakeholders, getting every holder’s opinion and support at every stage.

Conservation and the Community

Encouraged by the success of the signage relocation scheme in its initial stages, the various occupants, owners, corporate establishments and shopkeepers on Dadabhai Naoroji Road came together to form a citizen's association - The Heritage Mile Association.  This is a non-profit group that aims to restore the heritage character of Dr. Dadabhai Naoroji Road through public participation and private sponsorship. 

Since its inception, The Heritage Mile Association has raised funds through local stakeholders and shopkeepers to implement street furniture through another 500-metre stretch of the road, with more people and establishments continuing to commit their financial and volunteer support to this initiative.

The occupants of Dadabhai Naoroji Road  now meet each Monday to jointly discuss initiatives for the improvement of this streetscape.  The Association continues to undertake improvement projects such as round-the-clock security, maintenance and cleaning of the area, and there is a strong sense of ownership among the local shopkeepers and other stakeholders.

Additionally, as part of a larger drive to revitalize Dadabhai Naoroji Road, some individual buildings have undertaken restoration work which included removal of the air-conditioning units that were incongruent with the colonial façade.