An Illustratred History of the Unbuilt City by Robert Stephens; stories of 200 unrealised projects.
Beginning in 1670, Bombay Imagined: An Illustrated History of the Unbuilt City tells the story of 200 unrealised urban visions — aspirations of an evolved metropolis boasting everything from humane housing and expanded parks to sanitation systems and more. Ideas that never saw the light of the day are richly illustrated with archival drawings, contemporary speculations and artistic overlays, illuminating long-lost futures from the city’s never-before-seen past.
Bombay Imagined is a testimony to the audacious dreams of city-lovers, a chronicle of untold narratives across centuries and an insight into the tides that have shaped present-day Mumbai.
Since his move to Mumbai in 2007, Robert Stephens has cultivated a passion for rare and second-hand books with a focus on the city. What began as a meandering journey through archival texts to quench an innate curiosity transformed in 2014 when he opened the Professional Papers on Indian Engineering, published in 1869. Sandwiched between countless projects from the 19th century, Arthur Crawford's grand (albeit unrealised) plan for a 400-acre park at Mahalaxmi transcended the mundane aspirations of his contemporaries, despite being relegated to the pages of history for more than 150 years. The unexpected discovery ignited a seven-year-long exploration, leading Robert to scour nearly five dozen archives, libraries and studios around the world in search of radical ideas for Mumbai that never came to fruition.
“Since Bombay's very inception, its diverse inhabitants have been united in a singular belief: that the place could do with a little improvement. In his painstakingly researched, engagingly presented Bombay Imagined, Robert Stephens excavates visions of the City Unrealised. This is more than just a prospectus of plans and projects that failed to reach fruition (in some cases, thankfully so). It is also a loving tribute to the eccentrics and altruists, hucksters and geniuses who have called Bombay home. I read and re-read it with awe and enjoyment.”
- Naresh Fernandes, author of City Adrift: A Short Biography of Bombay
“Sit back with Bombay Imagined: An Illustrated History of the Unbuilt City, and time-travel through its spotlight on 200 unrealised plans and dreams to many Bombays — parallel, phantom cities and histories — that just might have been! It tells a great story of ideas on reclamation, housing, sanitation, reuse, architecture and more, that have championed an almost impossible city for the last 350 years. With painstaking, original research animated with archival images and digital artwork or ‘speculations’, Bombay Imagined is thoughtfully, creatively constructed, accessible and exciting. Written with brevity, humour, even fun, it left me amused, amazed and inspired. Trust me, this is a Bombay book for everyone!”
-Alisha Sadikot, founder of The Inheritage Project