Hafeez Contractor is an Indian architect running one of the largest architectural firms in India. Having graduated from Academy of Architecture in Bombay Contractor completed his graduation from New York at Columbia University. In the 1980s Contractor set up his own office that has grown in strength and portfolio.
His practice is based in Bombay, located in a prime location of South Bombay. Contractor is usually approached by builders and developers cause he follows one mantra; “the client should be happy at any cost.” Yesterday, I was fortunate to receive a tour of his office in his absence. A friend of mine who works for Contractor gave me a guided tour of the office.
The office entryway has a receptionist whose main duty is that of a telephone operator and the space is plastered with renderings of projects varying in scale and typology. The renderings paint a picture of a new shiny India. Towards one side of the entryway is a stairway that leads you up to the main work space. Contractor himself sits in the open with a paging system with a clear view towards the entry or exit steps. At my time of visit Contractor was away in the capital making his mark.
The office is a maze with various levels overlooking one another. Rows of people sit one after the other in an assembly line set up truly resembling a factory that is built to churn out projects after projects. The office set up with a lack of teaming spaces did not encourage creativity or individualistic thinking. The idea is to work fast and build faster following the age-old mantra that time is money. Amongst the stacks of people there are nooks and walls covered in books by Dali, Impressionist painters, Architecture of a new age indicating that there is definitely a good source of inspiration.
So Is Contractor a genius? Is he indifferent to the needs of the market and the environment? He definitely is a business man and has the science of making money right – in a field where most architects are constantly struggling to keep clients and achieving creative satisfaction. Contractor’s mantra of designing fast is definitely to keep up with the rise in demand but is it the most responsible and informed approach?