City anchor: CST drawings inspire awe, offer glimpse into past

Despite the light pencil work and colour washes that have faded over the years, "sheer awe" is how everyone described the original drawings at the iconic Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), one of India's most visited buildings.

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.

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