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The Rajabai Tower

The architecture of the Rajabai Tower 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, 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 structure on which one is going to work, carefully both restoring and updating, using innovative solutions that must make the restoration project efficient and sustainable.
To define the new night-time appearance of the Rajabai Tower, the lighting work was started by eliminating the tubular fluorescent light sources in the interiors and large metal halides which were earlier floodlighting the facade. The realization of a new lighting concept was entrusted to Kanchan Puri of KSA Lighting Designers.
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 historic fabric had to be minimal, as well as ease of maintenance and energy efficiency. The approach was to aim for soft revelation scene for every evening and a rather dramatic effect for a special evening. 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 the inside. The exterior façade is kept relatively in darkness, the glow from within creating a lantern effect.
The base of the tower, made of straw-coloured Kurla stone, is rendered with a warm colour temperature. There is a clever use and interplay of two different beams of light, narrow and wide. At the level of the first balustrade around the corners of the tower, carved stone figures have been backlit to achieve a silhouette effect. The dance of light and shadow at this level is increasingly pronounced.
The highest part of the tower is visible from various parts of the surroundings and has a dominating presence in the cityscape. The façade has intricate details that the lighting sculpts and captures. The balustrade at the gallery level of the Tower is lit by a linear light from the outside that highlights the intricate detail. On the other hand, the balustrade at the upper level of the Library is intentionally lit from the inside that has a delicate presence against the dark sky. The columns are picked up from below, while the arches are completely bathed in light. The effect is quite ethereal and almost jewel like.
The third level to the top of the pinnacle is 28 metres and tapers towards the sky. The arched voids just below the spire are lit bright from the inside. The ambient glow comes from within leaving the upper outlines of the pinnacle trailing into darkness. The spire of the tower is deliberately not defined which allows it to gradually and naturally merge into nature…the moonlit sky.
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 intrinsic materials of this gorgeous and historic architectural structure.

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  • Year
  • Client
  • Architectural project:
    Somaya & Kalappa
  • Lighting project:
    Kanchan Puri Shetty - KSA Lighting Designers
  • Photographer
    Himanshu Soda
    Noshir Gobhai

Project Quote

"The objective of the lighting design was to restore the original architectural splendour of the iconic Rajabai Tower and increasing light levels to meet the University Libarary’s modern requirements. The theme was to conceal yet reveal"

Kanchan Puri - KSA Lighting Designers

Products Used: