The drawings have made their first public appearance nearly 130 years after they were made.
Titled ‘Stevens’ Terminus: Frederick William Stevens’ drawings of Victoria Terminus (1878-1888)’, the exhibition at Sir JJ College of Architecture has been visited by architects, students, conservationists and a host of others since it started on February 12.
“The selected drawings of the Great Indian Peninsular Railway Terminus (later Victoria Terminus) are a testament of 19th century’s idea of progress. We see the coming together of contemporary infrastructural needs wrought by industrial revolution and stylistic imperatives of the time that resulted in the railway station’s Neo-Gothical detail and ornaments. These drawings, while primarily constructional in nature, were made for execution on site,” said Mustansir Dalvi, exhibition curator.
While Stevens was appointed government examiner at the institute in 1876, craftsmen and artists produced by Sir JJ College of Architecture are known to have worked on the CST building. When in 1877, Stevens joined GIP Railway, he again associated with the school for production of ornamental models, which were then executed by local craftsmen and installed with the larger Gothic scheme.
“In this exhibition, photo-essays on sculpted portraiture and local flora and fauna highlight the results of this collaboration between School of Art, the architect and the railways,” he said.
The exhibition, which is on till February 22, has contemporary photographs and descriptions as well as archival images and has been organised in conjunction with the opening of the Neo-Gothic wing of the terminus for public visits.
Dalvi said while many such structures, in other parts of the world, have been reconverted or re-adapted, CST is a rare example of a structure that is been used for what it was originally meant for.
“For the first time, the general public is getting to see what went into the making of such an iconic structure. The design of the railway terminus was a monumental enterprise in itself. One of the ways in which we can belong to a city is to embrace its heritage and drawings and designs of such a heritage structure are of equal importance. Just to look at them is sheer privilege. It’s an epitome of good drawing and tells students how good drawing also gets translated into great architecture,” he said.
The drawings are hand-drawn, hand-lettered, hand-painted and form a unique document of the “aesthetic and constructional” processes of their time. They include ground-floor plan, front of west elevation, south or side elevation, plans of first and second floors, plan of dome (11.9.1883), details of first floor, longitudinal and transverse sections, details of first and second class waiting hall, details of dome of administrative offices (11.3.1885), details of principal staircase under large dome, details of principal dome, grand staircase and tower.
“It’s a great experience to look at the actual building, which is one of the iconic structures and foundations of Mumbai, and the way it was conceptualised through its drawings and designs,” said Leif Hansen from Aarhus School of Architecture, Denmark.
Other drawings include details of tower, windows and courtyard facing south, carriage porch, administrative offices, post office, furniture, tiled flooring, toilet and section of roof to facade of station.
“We have computers and an array of software at our disposal now. It took 10 years for Stevens to make these drawings with no such technology to his advantage. We wouldn’t have so much patience today. So, observing the designs and drawings and the detailing in them has been an amazing experience,” said Prerna Damani, a third-year student of Sir JJ College of Architecture.
Journey of a terminus
June 20, 1887 Great Indian Peninsular Railway Terminus was renamed Victoria Terminus to commemorate 50 years of Queen Victoria’s reign
March 1996 It was renamed Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus
July 2, 2004 It was declared a world heritage site