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Forbes India ‘The Bold Club: India’s Top 30 Architects’ Powered by Kohler includes the journeys of prominent and influential architects making an impact in the country and across the globe in their own unique way. This annual initiative is an effort to recognise and promote bold leadership and foster authenticity and passion to inspire innovation.

Architect Hafeez Contractor

A series of serendipitous encounters helped put architect Hafeez Contractor on the map as an influential figure known for transforming the skylines of Mumbai and beyond.

When he was in class four, a teacher scolded him for not studying, and encouraged him to become an architect. A cousin, who recognised his talent, sought help to get him into an architectural college despite his low marks in SSC. Then there was Homi Dallas, president of the Indian Institute of Architecture, whose note to the Academy of Architecture helped Contractor sit for the entrance exam and later provided him with the means to attend Columbia University in the US.

Contractor eventually established his firm in 1982 in Mumbai after a dispute over the shade of granite for a client’s project with his cousin, who was his boss at the time.

The boy who preferred drawing forts over studying today heads one of the largest architectural practices in South Asia and has designed iconic projects such as The 42 in Kolkata, The Imperial in Mumbai, and 23 Marina in Dubai, which until a few years ago, was the world’s tallest building.

Having been in the industry for over 50 years, Contractor attributes his success to his willingness to adapt to new trends. “Every year, every two years, the game changes and I have to get on changing, changing and changing,” says Contractor, a recipient of the Padma Bhushan.

While the firm works on a wide spectrum of projects, affordable housing for every Indian and zero waste architecture are what drive Contractor. He feels designers today need to be cognisant of “the biggest design criteria”—climate change, global warming, oceans rising, and food security. “When you leave this world, you leave this world in a way that is fit for your kids to live further,” he says.

By Darielle Britto

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