Stunning." “Goodness me." “Futuristic."

This week Mumbai’s new pilgrimage point—on Twitter at least—was the upcoming Air Traffic Control (ATC) Tower. “It’s the Salman Khan of ATCs—good-looking and knows it," says Neha Cougnery Shrivastava, an education consultant, who glimpsed the tower while driving from Malad to her home in Chembur.

The online chatter caused by this blue-and-grey blob shows the deep reach of urban design and aesthetics among citizens like us who are its beneficiaries as well as its casualties. The billion-dollar Antilia might be industrialist Mukesh Ambani’s private home on Altamount Road but its aspirational forcefulness—its exclusivity looks lonesome from the Hanging Gardens—could charge the entrepreneurial spirits of a Chowpatty beach vendor.

We asked a handful of Mumbaikars to pick their favourite landmark from those that have come up in the past few years. What vision of Mumbai does it represent to them?

Sudhakar Pandey, driver, Cool Cab service

Saifee Hospital. Photo: Ramesh Nair/Mint

Shobhaa De,novelist and social commentator

The Indiabulls office building (near Elphinstone Road station) is very swanky, very Singapore. A symbol of ambitious, on-the-move Mumbai. In a city where office goers are treated like lowly worker ants, here is a building that offers international facilities—basics that one ought to be able to take for granted, like parking spaces and clean toilets, good security systems and green areas. A pleasing work environment leads to better productivity. In India, all these parameters are rendered unimportant and worthless. Our offices stink, are badly designed and maintained. The elevators don’t work or are antiquated. Career people are taken entirely for granted. This is just sooooo Third World, it’s embarrassing.

Priya Sarukkai Chabria, poet, author of ‘Bombay/Mumbai Immersions’

The ATC Tower. Photo: Manoj Patil/Mint
The ATC Tower. Photo: Manoj Patil/Mint

Hafeez Contractor, architect

An individual building can’t change Mumbai. Only progressive laws and policies can transform it, such as the slum rehabilitation scheme in which free land is provided in exchange for property development. We attempted it with the Imperial Towers in Tardeo. It led to free housing for thousands of slum dwellers. Lately, we have been given by-laws that are framed only to stop illegal structures. The police are unable to catch the robbers, so they have handcuffed all of us. If we want Mumbai to look as good as New York, we need our ministers to open up their brains.

Parul Singh, vice-president, IDG Media

Metro tracks over the Western Express Highway in Andheri East. Photo: Manoj Patil/Mint

Deepa Krishnan, blogger, Mumbai-magic.blogspot.com

From my balcony, I can see the Capital building at the Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) and I like the design. Next to it another one is coming up, also curved. This is the ONGC building (the ONGC Green Building Office Project).

To me, BKC and its modern buildings represent the new image of Mumbai. There are interesting historical parallels here. The old Bombay grew on the grand reclamation schemes of the 18th and 19th century; now we have the MMRDA (Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority) reclaiming land at Bandra to provide the space for BKC. There have been massive changes to the topography near BKC, just as in the original development of south Bombay.

In the mid-1800s, a clutch of buildings came up in south Mumbai, in the “Bombay Gothic" style, creating a distinct grand architecture that announced Bombay as the “urbs prima in Indis". Similarly, this clutch of buildings at BKC is creating a new visual identity for the city, exemplifying Mumbai’s view of itself as the “First City of India". BKC is not one modern building sitting in isolation; it is a whole precinct with a distinct and coherent image. There are several commercial buildings, all steel, glass and concrete, set amid wide roads in a planned reclamation, and home to upscale restaurants and art installations as well.

Amish, novelist, ‘Shiva Trilogy’

My apartment affords a fantastic view of Mumbai’s iconic Bandra-Worli Sea Link bridge connecting the suburb of Bandra to Worli, over the Mahim Bay. The bridge is emblematic of how infrastructure projects materialize in our country. I have seen the bridge being built from scratch. There would be a few months of frenetic activity, when some of the base pillars and pylons of the bridge would be put up. Then there would be a few months of inactivity. Then suddenly the activity would pick up again. I was told that this was due to the episodic nature of fund release from the government and the periodic stop-work notices owing to stay orders from our courts. When there was no money or the courts so ordered, work would stop. With better planning, the bridge could have been built a lot sooner. Furthermore, the effectiveness of the bridge is up for questioning. Since the connecting bridges to south Mumbai have not been built (or even commissioned) as yet, the Bandra-Worli bridge has simply transferred the traffic jams of Mahim to Worli.

This is the lot of most of Mumbai’s infrastructure projects. They are still works-in-progress. Sometime in the future, things will certainly be a lot better. Until then, we can enjoy the beauty of the infrastructure projects that have been completed. Not one of them is more beautiful than the Bandra-Worli Sea Link.

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