Interview with Architect Hafeez Contractor
Need to create liveable cities
As more of the country’s population moves into cities, the results of disorganized planning are self-evident. Architect Hafeez Contractor in an exclusive interview with Sapna Srivastava made an ardent pitch for modifying antiquated urban planning rules.
Architect Hafeez Contractor office in the heart of South Mumbai started in 1982 with three people covering small area across just two floor-to-ceiling windows. Today the office stretches over double heighted space of two floors with more than 500 people working. Giving a brief about the place, Contractor said, “From the original 150 square feet space, now we have almost 15,000 square feet in the same building and have added more space in the next two inter-connected buildings.”
While, talking to the eminent architect, one thing noticeable is his quick explanations of his thoughts through sketches. Expressing his views on the transformations over the year, he responded with the graphical representation of the radical population growth and the inadequacies of urban planning. “I started working in 1968 with Ar. T. Khareghat ‘s architectural firm and in 1982 established my on practice. From there till now, the Indian economy, population and society has undergone a chemical change. Earlier 75% of the population lived in villages. They are now moving to urban areas for better prospects. Almost 60% of our population today is below 30 and joint families are converting into nuclear families. Given this scenario, we have a herculean task at hand, similar to creating one Chicago city every year.”
I am the most misunderstood architect. Many a times, termed as a rich man’s architect. The reality is I give appropriate designs for the purpose it is intended, whether a luxury residential or a rural primary school.
Apart from the commercial projects, Contractor has been researching and conceptualizing ways in which to positively impact the urban environment. He gave three critical areas of concern for the Indian urban growth. “Firstly, there is a need for housing the 1.2 billion population which soon will swell to 1.5 billion. Secondly, the farmlands are being gobbled to expand cities, seriously depleting agricultural land. Third and the most important concern is the environment change because of the chaotic urban development.”
He gives an instance of the recent Freeway built in Mumbai along coastline. Contractor had suggested that, it be made like an embankment at a higher level and 500metre green belt around it, to counter the rise in ocean levels after a few years. But the environmentalist felt, he was trying to circumvent the CRZ rules. According to him, the current freeway after 10 years will be a wasteful billion dollar infrastructure given the rising sea levels.