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
How Can You Help?
Your pre-order for Bombay Imagined will help preserve Mumbai’s unbuilt past, and share Robert Stephens’ unique storytelling along with over 350 images with the world. While we have already invested heavily in the book’s development, your support will aid production costs and bring to life-form this seven-year-long effort.
Your pre-orders will cover approximately 75% of the printing costs for the first edition. Signed copies and premium items will help to cover the remaining production costs, reimburse expenses incurred in the design stages of the book and Robert's research.
January 2022: Pre-orders start.
February 2022: Offset printing commences in Mumbai.
March 2022: Local and global shipping of books*
*Customs may apply for orders shipped outside of India.
Researched and written by Robert Stephens (native of South Carolina, and Mumbai resident and practising architect since 2007), Bombay Imagined was conceived in the meditative depths of the Mumbai local train in 2013 and matured through various lockdowns during the global coronavirus pandemic.
About the Book
Nearly two dozen institutions, foundations and libraries from around the world have opened the physical and digital doors of their collections, sharing rare, often never-before-published material.
Selected images are reproduced from the Urbs Indis Library, Robert Stephens’ personal collection of second-hand books on Mumbai, sourced from local vendors dotting the footpaths around the city’s Flora Fountain locale and numerous booksellers globally.
Thirty-one studios from around the globe have contributed content, including Abraham John Architects, Apostrophe A+uD, Architect Hafeez Contractor, Bandra Collective, DCOOP, Foster + Partners, Ganti & Associates, Heatherwick Studio, HKS, IMK Architects, Jakob + MacFarlane, Mad(e) in Mumbai, MO-OF, Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos, OMA, Pheroze Kudianvala, PK Das & Associates, Ratan J Batliboi Consultants, RMA Architects, Salil Ranadivé Architects, Sameep Padora & Associates, SNK Consultants, Sound Space Design, Steven Holl Architects, Studio MADe, Studio PKA, StudioPOD, Tiarstudio, TOWNLAND, Vikas Dilawari Architects and Zaha Hadid Architects.