Until this year, Mumbai didn’t have a single boutique hotel. There was the Taj Palace, with its iconic confectionary grandeur; some characterless, midrange hotels scattered around Colaba, the core of historic South Mumbai; the Oberoi and the Trident in their 1970s concrete boxes. But there was no hotel that captured both the rich visual heritage of historic Bombay and the intense aesthetic energy of contemporary Mumbai. Now, there’s Abode.
Six years before he helped to found the Bombay Stock Exchange in 1875, Premchand Roychand donated 2 lakh rupees to the University of Bombay for the construction of a clock tower on the express condition that it be named after his mother: Rajabai. Built of local Kurlastone and designed by English architect Sir George Gilbert Scott (best known for his GothicRevival churches back home), the tower rose 85 meters, looking out over the palms and the maidan to the sea. The clock tower and its scrolls of Venetian Gothic masonry surmounted the university library; it was Bombay’s tallest building.
For years, visitors could enter and climb the tower for about one rupee. Then in the 1970s, having already lost its privileged position on the skyline to the blunt modernist towers at Nariman Point, the tower was closed to the public. There had been suicides; the university authorities realized they couldn’t control who came in (nor, apparently, how they left). (more…)