Ar. Hafeez Contractor in conversation with
Ar. Roopa Sabnis Pinge
India’s biggest architect set up his practice as Architect Hafeez Contractor (AHC) from his quaint office in Mumbai in 1982. 40 years and over 4000 projects later, the man continues to practice from the same office space – expanding it gradually over time – and dreams of a better India.
His knowledge is impressive and his confidence-inspiring; his humility is beguiling and his simplicity humbling; his passion is contagious and his perseverance relentless.
Meet the man who has single-handedly changed the skyline of almost all Indian cities : Ar. Hafeez Contractor!
Call it India, or Hindustan or Bharat – but the real question Is Our Country Future-Ready?
By future-ready, I mean a holistic readiness to tackle existing and future issues potentially expected to emerge from the upward development curve that the nation is progressing on. Are we ready to mitigate the challenges the future is going to bring?
A recipient of the prestigious Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan Awards, Hafeez Contractor does not think so. In our overly populous country – with a significantly high rate of rural-to-urban migrations, illegal infiltrations, and organic settlements – architects, planners and property developers face unique problems.
Among his other plans and proposals, Hafeez has unflinching faith that only vertical growth of cities can address our challenges of increasing population and limited land resources.
He believed that the need for sustainable, compact cities must be explored, and almost from the time he started his practice.
He has been nurturing one single dream to create a home for every Indian!
Armed with this seemingly preposterous dream to provide basic housing to all Indians, he superimposed his lofty ideals on his pragmatic tracing sheets and started designing for the masses. Many real estate developers were quick to support his foresight and engaged in his services. Alongside multiple affluent housing and mixed-use schemes, AHC has worked on solutions for the issue of slums plaguing Mumbai, by introducing a Slum Rehabilitation Scheme.
Over the past three decades that I have known him and through a thousand-odd formal and casual conversations, the one thing that sets him apart from the rest of the world is his passion for making India a better place to live in! Possibly because of such dynamic and avant-garde opinions that the Contractor so intently voices, time and again, he was recently granted a meeting with the honorable Prime Minister of India Mr. Narendra Modi - to share his ideas and solutions to India’s housing and infrastructure problems!
Chatting with the legendary architect is always a pleasure – and this time was no exception!
Credits: Photoshoot of Ar. Hafeez Contractor by Sameer Chawda for INSITE; other photographs courtesy AHC