Somaya & Kalappa
Kanchan Puri Shetty
KSA Lighting Designers
The architecture of the Rajabai is a perfectly preserved example of Victorian culture and ethos. The historic tower has been restored to its former glory and is now bathed in a warm light that highlights its elegance.
The tower is part of the 'Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensembles of Bombay'. a complex of 19th century Victorian Gothic and 20th century Art Deco public buildings in Mumbai's Fort district that was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2018.
These Victorian Gothic buildings and Art Deco buildings are built around the Maidan Oval, a large open space that was once known as the Esplanade. The eastern side of the Oval is lined by the Victorian buildings, while the western side is lined by the Art Deco buildings of Back Bay Reclamation and Marine Drive for a total of 94 buildings.
On the eastern side is one of the symbols of Mumbai, the Rajabai Tower, which together with the University of Mumbai Library building, were a conservation and restoration project of a Grade I listed building (the tallest). The restoration of Mumbai's tallest structure (85 metres) and the adjacent library was a challenging project in all aspects: structural, logistical and architectural. Mapping the condition of the building revealed that the tower was built with four different types of stone; the floors are made of Minton tiles, the structures use teak and rosewood; there are also decorated balconies and sculptures.
Successful restoration starts with research and understanding of the past of the property on which one is going to work, carefully both restoring and updating, using those innovative solutions that must make the property efficient.
To define the new night-time appearance of the Rajabai Tower, they started by eliminating the tubular fluorescent light sources and entrusted Kanchan Puri of KSA Lighting Designers with the realization of a new lighting concept.
The starting point was a functional analysis distinguishing various levels for indoor and outdoor lighting for general, operational and security purposes, and that were adaptable to various social, cultural and tourist activities. Furthermore, the impact and intervention on the urban fabric had to be minimal, as well as ease of maintenance and energy efficiency. The approach was to aim for soft revelation rather than dramatic effect. The Indian Heritage Society and TCS, who collaborated on this project, fully embraced this idea.
Linear Linealuce 47 luminaires created the grazing illumination of the larger surfaces and added accent lighting with iPro spotlights.
The gallery at the top of the first level is largely illuminated by light from inside. The exterior façade is kept relatively dark, creating a lantern effect.
The base of the tower, made of straw-coloured Kurla stone, is rendered with a warm colour temperature. There are two different beams of light, one narrow and the other wide. At the height of the first balustrade, at the corners of the tower, stone figures are carved that have been backlit to achieve a silhouette effect. The play of light and shadow, at this height, is very pronounced.
The highest part of the tower is visible from various parts of the city. The façade has intricate details that the lighting captures. The balustrade at the gallery level is lit by a linear light from outside that captures the details. The columns are lit from above, while the arches are completely bathed in light.
The third level to the top of the pinnacle is 28 metres and tapers towards the sky. The arches just below the spire are lit from within: the glow comes from within and leaves the upper spire of the pinnacle in shadow. The upper limits of the tower are deliberately not defined.
The all-LED design generates significant savings in terms of energy and maintenance compared to the previous installation where conventional sources were used. It also reduces UV emissions, helping to preserve the delicate material of the historic building.