Old charm in new colours

Two structures that have been part of Mumbai for about a hundred years, get a cheerful facelift and a thumbs-up from Unesco

A number of cameras have been clicking the Marzban Parsi colony in Agripada and the Royal Bombay Yacht Club in Apollo Bunder after the two restored structures were given UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage awards recently. The Mumbai buildings were among 10 names chosen out of 47 entries from 16 countries. The recognition intends to encourage heritage conservation, a cause that is often overlooked in the region.

The win is the third in two years for Vikas Dilawari, the conservation architect who led the restoration. The repairs were done over a period of three years each and without inflated budgets. The Royal Bombay Yacht Club was repaired for about Rs 4 crore, while the 10,920-square feet Wadia Building, the most dilapidated structure in Lal Chimney Compound, was fixed for Rs 800 per square foot. The others were refurbished for Rs 200-300 per square foot. Dilawari says the efforts paid off as the property managers agreed with his ideas. “There are people with money, but what we need are supportive patrons,” he says.

Marzban colony near Nair Hospital is a set of five low-rise buildings. It is also called Lal Chimney Compound supposedly because a red chimney once stood in the area. Around it are tall and drab commercial or residential structures. Now painted a fun shade of yellow and capped by tiled roofs, the colony stands out pleasantly like pastries in a cold grey refrigerator. Its origin dates back to the late 19th century and it is named after Muncherji Marzban, an executive engineer at the Bombay Municipal Corporation who promoted housing for the poor. It acts as a specimen of community housing, a fast-dwindling concept.

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