Cities Public Realm Real Estate

My Building Tallest

The late 90’s and the first decade of the 21st century can be rightly called the glory years of the Skyscraper Race. Countries tried to outdo each other in claiming the tallest skyscraper status. Before this boom, the Sears Towers in Chicago, USA held the claim for nearly 3 decades.

All that went for a toss as Asian countries caught on to this craze. The Petronas became the tallest building for a few years, only to be eclipsed by Taipei 101 in Taiwan. And then came the big kahuna of tall buildings, the Burj Khalifa.

And this is just the race for the top position. Change it to the top ten and there are dozens of buildings all across Asia, North America, and Russia that try to reach for the skies.

In all this, India is prominently absent.

Monika Halan writes a very well-laid out article titled: Reaching for the Sky: How Tall is my country.

She concludes

… it does not look as if India or Indians are unduly worried about failing on another parameter of global ranking. The lack of interest or even public debate on getting India on the tall building map could mean several things. One, we are not at the stage of economic growth where having the tallest building becomes something to think about. Two, there is no massive speculative real estate bubble in the country and cheap money is certainly not an issue. Three, the argumentative Indian does not need the prop of an icon of American culture to define India’s identity or its place in the world. Or it could just be that we are so sure that a fire in the tallest building will end in disaster with the fire engines (that can reach all of 10 storeys) stuck in a traffic jam caused by a broken-down cycle on the main road. Nope, we don’t even want to go that way.

Tall buildings serve their purpose in urban areas. Contrary to popular thinking they can be more sustainable in all aspects than their height challenged counterparts. And if India takes that road and goes tall, all power to the builders. But if its just to get bragging rights, then its a waste of time, money and opportunity.

Architecture Events

Indian Pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo 2010 Disappoints

On May 01, 2010 the World Expo 2010 opened in Shanghai, China. Besides other things, its a venerable feast of architecture

Countries have come out with their best architectural foot forward and some of the national pavilions are stunning examples of the contemporary architectural vocabulary of those countries. However all attempts to get a better look at the Indian Pavilion at the Expo has been a disappointing task.


The above picture is one of the few official ones that have been released by the Chinese Expo Authority. And the Director of the Indian Pavilion Rajesh Kumar, can be seen here talking about the design.


The Need for Design Schools in India

India is fast becoming one of the world’s leading consumer of manufactured goods. Be it cellphones, sneakers, cars or home furnishings; Indians are lapping it all up. And the manufacturers of the world cannot ignore the fact that there needs to be a new design sensibility for this new client base.

Jayashree Bhosale at Economic Times writes about this need for an “Indianised” design and by extension the Indian designers.

In the whole post-secondary education boom, pure design schools have not been at the forefront. And that is a niche waiting to be filled. The article below discusses the pros and cons of that.

India is now a potential design pool

There’s a whole new talent dimension that India has yet to cash in on: design. The demand for professionals in this field is going up by the day, as international brands call in on one of the world’s key manufacturing and consumption centres. But with just a handful design schools in the country, it’s an opportunity waiting to be tapped.

Cities Infrastructure Real Estate

The Mumbai CBD Exodus

The following news article about the impending exodus of finance powerhouses from Nariman Point, the CBD of Mumbai; is not surprising. Infact, some would wonder why it took so long.

Since the 90’s we have had proclamations from politicians wanting to make Mumbai the next  Shanghai, Singapore or Dubai; depending on the flavor of the month.

What most people dont realize is that Nariman Point is over 40 years old in the present form. And its buildings are crumbling or in poor shape. And the rents are double that of Midtown Manhattan.

Infrastructure wise, its not as bad as other parts of Mumbai. However it would serve some owners well to demolish and build more efficient buildings, in terms of space, design and sustainability. Then the sky-high rents are justified.

Inevitably it may happen. As more and more businesses move away, owners might do just that. I’d rather they be proctive about it, than doing it as a reaction to market forces alone.

UBS, JP Morgan lead Nariman Point exodus

By Pooja Thakur, for Bloomberg

MUMBAI: UBS AG and JPMorgan Chase & Co. are leading an exodus of finance companies from Mumbai’s Nariman Point financial district as they balk at paying double midtown-Manhattan rents for crumbling four-decade-old buildings.

UBS, Switzerland’s biggest bank, moved to a new complex on the site of a drive-in cinema about nine miles north. JPMorgan, the second-biggest US lender, shifted to an adjacent suburb, while private-equity firm KKR & Co. went about three miles north of Nariman Point. Axis Bank and broker Motilal Oswal Financial Services are moving in the next year.

Cities Environment and Climate Infrastructure Sustainability

McKinsey and Company on India’s Urbanization

McKinsey & Company recently came up with a comprehensive report titled “India’s Urban Awakening: Building inclusive cities, sustaining economic growth”. The executive summary of the report is below. The entire report in PDF format can be read here.

India’s urban awakening: Building inclusive cities, sustaining economic growth


India has a young and rapidly growing population—a potential demographic dividend. But India needs thriving cities if that dividend is to pay out. New MGI research estimates that cities could generate 70 percent of net new jobs created to 2030, produce around 70 percent of Indian GDP, and drive a near fourfold increase in per capita incomes across the nation.

Handled well, India can reap significant benefits from urbanization. MGI offers a range of recommendations, the vast majority of which India could implement within five to ten years. If India were to follow the recommendations, it could add 1 to 1.5 percent to annual GDP growth, bringing the economy near to the double-digit growth to which the government aspires.

Cities Sustainability

India’s Urban Awakening

Warren Karlenzig at Green Flow makes some very valid points for India cities as they grow both in number and size. Some of the comparisons with China are pretty interesting, especially the one about planned phases of growth in national cities.

Making the Cities of India More Sustainable

Article by Warren Karlenzig at Green Flow

With Mumbai, one of the largest cities of the world, treating only 30-40 percent of its sewage, experiencing five-hour traffic delays and hosting massively expanding unplanned slums, urban sustainability needs to be viewed through a different lens than elsewhere.

India will add an additional 26 cities of one million or more by 2030 to its 42 one million+ cities today. The 2008 population in cities of 340 million in 2008 will soar to 590 million by 2030. The need for much improved urban housing and health services, let alone better planning, governance and carbon management, threatens the nation’s and thus the world’s economic stability: India’s population by 2030 is forecast to overtake China’s


Welsh Architect to Design Ancient Indian Temple

India abounds in ancient architecture. A lot of it is living, preserved and used by society in daily life. And not all of it is converted to museums and monuments.

Adam_Hardy Now what happens when you want to build a new temple in a style that has gone defunct centuries ago? Well you try to find the top researcher in that style and see if something can be designed.

The smart folks at Shree Kalyana Venkateshwara Hoysala Art Foundation did just that when they decided that they wanted to build a new temple in the Hoysala Dynasty style.

A British architect has been commissioned to design a Hindu temple in India in a style not used for more than 700 years.

Adam Hardy, from Cardiff’s Welsh School of Architecture, believes he is the only person in the world with the knowledge to design in the style of the 12th century Hoysala dynasty.

Unlike other regional architectural traditions which are still practised by Hindu architects in India, this particular complex and ornate style from the south died out seven centuries ago. [ link to article ]


Cities Real Estate

High-End Housing Booming Again

The world economic slump did not affect India as severely as it did other nations. And hence India is quicker on the upswing as things begin to move positive.

Real estate is one marker on the state of the economy. And in the case of Mumbai it looks like the already inflated market is going even higher.

On the back of a revival in demand, real estate developers are again building super luxury apartments, say experts.

Consultancy firms Jones Lang Lasalle Meghraj (JLLM) and Knight Frank India said there are about 7,000 such apartments to be delivered within a year in Mumbai alone, where the cost is not below Rs4.7 crore for a single unit.

“After the recession got over, real estate developers are back building high-end super luxury projects because there is good demand for such projects. At the same time, margins are also higher in these projects,” JLLM country head and chairman Anuj Puri told PTI. [ link to article ]

Are real estate prices in Mumbai really sustainable in the long run ?