Padma Bhushan Awardee Architect Hafeez Contractor has always championed the art of residential architecture be it affordable or luxury. He did his Graduate Diploma in architecture from Mumbai in 1975 and completed his post-graduation from Columbia University New York on a Tata Scholarship. Hafeez Contractor commenced his career in 1968 with T. Khareghat as an Apprentice Architect and in 1982 started his modest practice with a staff of two and today heads one of the largest architectural practices in India with over 650 employees. The firm has to its credit:
- The tallest Building in India, The Imperial Towers –I & II, Mumbai
- One of the tallest Residential Tower in the World, 23 Marina, Dubai.
- The largest integrated operational business park in India, spread over 120 acres, the DLF Cyber City, Gurgaon
- Modernizing the two busiest domestic airports in the country, MIAL Terminal 1B and 1C (Mumbai) and IGI Terminal T1D (New Delhi) and Turbhe sub-urban rail station in Navi Mumbai
- Designing one of the best cricket stadiums of the world, DY Patil Stadium
“Sometimes a very good looking building which everyone appreciates, I would say I have not scored ten out of ten. But in a building which nobody appreciates and is in a backyard or some street I would say I scored ten out of ten, because what was given and what is achieved is where we have to look at it. For example if you design a museum, where there are no constraints of cost, area or time and create a sculptural building – that is not architecture. An architect should be able think about efficiency and cost, what your country is going through and how you are going to house the millions and billions of people. According to me even a slight unnecessary excess of cost or built-up is a crime.”
Hafeez Contractor was a member of the Bombay Heritage Committee and New Delhi Lutyens Bungalow Zone Review Committee. He is currently empanelled and working with various housing boards of different states including Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh. He along with officials of the urban development department and senior authorities has worked out solutions for slums plaguing Mumbai, by introducing a slum rehabilitation scheme.
His proposal of ‘the western waterfront development’ attempts to rejuvenate the urban environment by creating large green open spaces of Mumbai and streamline the city’s transport needs. Hafeez worked with a developer in Gurgaon and convinced government that high rise development had more advantages in terms of quality life versus intense low rise structures dotting the landscape.
“I agree when Prime Minister said that we should make smart cities and more urban cities. I would suggest that we should have only five or six mega smart cities and they should be connected to cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai, so that all the existing facilities and the infrastructure can be utilized and shared. If we make 100 smart cities they will be of what population? When we make a city from say two million to five million will it be able to hold such huge population and yet have structure of international standards. If you make a city for country like ours, say for a population of 30 million; they should be really dense. We should have infrastructure of the quality that can surpass cities like London and New York. If we start making small cities we are always going to be scrounging on what should be there.
As an architect I firmly feel that taking only selected projects is not a good thing. That is just when you want to make a name for yourself. You should be able to take up any project with all different constraints and yet design a successful project.