Mumbai was an important hub for Art Deco architecture in the 1930s and has a design history that is rich and full of local flavour. Indian architects synergised a very ‘Bombay’ approach to this global style, creating some unique landmarks in the city.  In June 2017, the Gothic and Art Deco ensemble of buildings centred around Oval Maidan in Mumbai, came to be recognised as the city’s third UNESCO World Heritage site.

While the conscription was a major victory for citizens who had advocated for the recognition, a vast majority of Mumbaikars have no idea what Art Deco was all about. This isn’t surprising given that there are less than a handful of books or guides available on the subject. So we asked ourselves – how can we get people as excited about Art Deco as we are?

Ruchita Madhok, Cofounder, Storycity

Deco by the Bay

An initiative from design studio Kahaani DesignworksStorycity produces original publications that allow people to discover different aspects of a city’s cultural and design history. Deco by the Bay is the newest Storycity publication to feature Mumbai’s unique expression of modernist design.

The Deco by the Bay discovery set includes a map, two souvenir postcards of iconic Bombay Deco style cinemas and a fun terrazzo notebook to jot observations and record your favourite parts of the walk.

As an introduction, the enclosure opens out to reveal a historical note about Art Deco. A pictorial guide shows nine features of Art Deco buildings so that a reader can identify them for herself.  The narrative encourages users to observe the city, its landscape, the neighbourhood they are walking through and of course, each Art Deco site. The attempt is to set the context for Deco and introduce it from a macro to micro perspective in simple, relatable terms.

While guided heritage tours have become very popular in recent years, they tend to be exclusive and expensive. What Mumbai needs is for ordinary residents and visitors to get out and discover the city for their own. Deco by the Bay is an affordable guide that is visually exciting and easily accessible to someone without extensive knowledge of either architecture or history. 

Aditya Palsule, Cofounder, Storycity

The Design Details

The visual language for the whole publication is a contemporary interpretation of Deco-era graphics.

Inspired by the pastel walls of Mumbai’s apartment blocks, the peach and pistachio tones set up a fresh tropical colour palette, while the infusion of geometric patterns is derived from the designs of metal grillwork commonly seen on residential buildings. Small details such as streamlined edges, bands and alignments all riff off the design elements of the remarkable architecture featured in the guide.

The display and body fonts used in Deco by the Bay have both been inspired by the work of modernist architects.

The headlines are set in Avenida designed by John Chippendale and inspired by signs on Spanish Art Deco buildings of the 1920s and 30s. The body text is set in Neutraface, developed by master type designer Christian Schwartz and based on the design aesthetics of Richard Neutra, one of the most prominent American architects of the modernist era.

The title for the publication is a piece of custom lettering based on an alphabet developed by Ruchita Madhok for a previous Storcyity publication titled Bombay Deco: Hidden in Plain Sight.

The whole set is printed on natural white uncoated paper and the set is a comfortable size that fits neatly into a small bag. The A3 guide itself is printed on maplitho paper which is specially designed to withstand repeated folding and creasing. The cover carries hot-foil stamping in copper and red, while the terrazzo notebook is flecked with gold.

Deco by the Bay is published by Kahani and is available online through AmazonFlipkart and Paper Planes

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