Amongst all professionals, no one gets his peers as riled up as does Architect Hafeez Contractor. And the reasons are many. Be it is “chutzpah” early in his career to go where no architect wanted to go in terms of fees. Be it his complete mastery and hence exploitation of the archaic Building Bye-Laws. And surely his dated designs that have sadly given Bombay much of its current image.
Rahul Bhatia at Open Magazine tries to bring the persona of Hafeez to life. This is a perspective of a non-architect looking at what an architect is doing to the urban fabric of the city we stay in and we all love.
Bhatia creates a fine balance in trying to bring out the issues without getting into any of the bias that clouds most architectural arguements concering Hafeez. And daresay I even agree with Hafeez on this one point
Hafeez believes the only reason people object to taller buildings is that builders lobby for permissions to build them, which means someone, somewhere, is making a lot of money. “Can you believe that?” he exclaims. He wants Mumbai to be taller so that there’s room for its inhabitants.
Hafeez Contractor is India’s starchitect, whether architects like it or not. It. At this stage in his professional career Hafeez could do a lot more to improve the overall urban quality of the cities he practises in. His clout with the developer, politician and his understanding of architecture and design should allow him to push a better agenda for our cities. Exploiting loopholes in the law is not one of them.
Rahul Bhatia / Open Magazine.
Deconstructing Hafeez Contractor
In Hafeez Contractor’s factory, hundreds of architects and draftsmen sit elbow to elbow to churn out buildings. From morning to night, their sole purpose is to draft and design the innumerable rough sketches that originate from Hafeez, who has a good view of the office exit. As a result, employees do not attempt to leave before dinner. When a project is over they immediately begin work on the next. There are no milestones, only more buildings to make. People here do not linger. They have been taught to respect time. The act of endless production has stripped them of most ideologies, bar one: the client’s happiness comes above all else. Here, the architect is as the dictionary defines him: a person who designs buildings. This is not about form follows function, or less is more, or envisioning habitats. The factory’s patrons know the worth of a buck, and they do not care much for architecture as art. Which is why they come here. They like their costs minimised, and design amplified.