Both cities were also influenced by the ideas of British urban planner Patrick Geddes, who was a professor at the University of Bombay in the 1920s and later created Tel Aviv’s urban plan, which was then part of British Palestine.
The exhibition, created by Art Deco Mumbai and Bauhaus Center Tel Aviv, along with the Israeli Consulate and JJ, juxtaposes the Art Deco buildings of Marine Drive with the Bauhaus buildings of Tel Aviv, and celebrates the cities’ architects. “Cities are so far apart, and in the 1930s that distance was even greater,” says Dahlia Nuemann, deputy chief of mission at the Israeli Consulate General. “Yet the similarities are there. Climatically, they are both seaside towns.”
Mumbai’s Art Deco heritage is often compared to Miami. But deco elements can be seen in many port towns, reflecting the spread of a new international aesthetic in the 1930s with the rise of modern transport – steamships and airplanes – and reinforced concrete technology. “This exhibition is a good example of how this style was everywhere at the time,” says Dalvi.
At first glance, Tel Aviv’s buildings seem spared compared to Mumbai’s more playful decor. The architects of this city were influenced by the modernist leanings of the Bauhaus school in Germany – many were Jewish architects fleeing Nazi Germany – as well as by Le Corbusier. “Bauhaus rejected ornamentation, and even color,” says Atul Kumar, founder of Art Deco Mumbai. He notes that buildings in Tel Aviv are painted pale gray and white.
But buildings in both cities share a similar clean look, and even shipping imagery like portholes and decorative halls. Looking at the close-ups of the building’s details, Kumar points out, “you can’t tell which is which.”
For Kumar, there is a lot to learn from Tel Aviv’s conservation experience. The city obtained its Unesco label in 2003, not only for the historic district but also for the urban plan of Geddes. Geddes promoted the idea of a “garden city” with lots of greenery and road layouts that allowed sea winds to ventilate the streets. Some of these ideas influenced the Bombay Improvement Trust, but Geddes’ vision came to fruition more fully in his urban plan for Tel Aviv. In 2017, the Tel Aviv Municipality demolished a 1970s pedestrian bridge over a circle, restoring the space to the original vision. “It would be like removing the flyover from Zion Circle,” Kumar explains.
Conservation didn’t happen overnight in Tel Aviv, Nuemann says, noting that many buildings were dilapidated even 20 years ago. Funding for conservation was also a challenge, adds Michelle Joseph, public diplomacy officer at the Israeli consulate who previously worked at the Tel Aviv municipality. conservation, a bit like in Mumbai. But the rules also ensured the additions didn’t disrupt the visual character of the neighborhood, Kumar says. “The challenges (for conservation) have been similar,” he says.