Saturday, April 28, 2007

Unreal stuff, man

I went to Powai this week for a conference. Powai Lake is beautiful, even though this summer, it looks quite shallow. Around the lake, there are several tall buildings.

Up close, this is what the buildings look like. I ask you, does any other part of Mumbai look like this? The whole thing seems like a cross between classical-Greek and mad-Bollywood fantasy. And it's a smash hit with the yuppie population.

Customers just can't stop buying apartments in Powai! Perhaps there's something about the grandiose style that appeals to the status-conscious Indian?

Or maybe it's because Powai is a planned township. When you're in Powai, for a little while, you can forget about the rest of Mumbai, with its crowded streets and slums. Instead, you're in a tall building with a lake view, and guess what honey, there's a KFC here!

The architect of this "distinctive Neo-Classical architectural style" is Hafeez Contractor, an interesting man with a slew of awards to his name. Hiranandani, the builder who backed this project, is laughing all the way to the bank and launching identical new projects. Of late, more buildings with this type of architecture have been springing up in other parts of Bombay.

In the 1800's, we had Bombay Gothic. In the 1900's Mumbai had art deco buildings. Is the 21st century going to be labelled the Hafeez era?


Anonymous said...

ugh! how horrendous!

i wish we had architects who could build structures that blend in with the surroundings rather than stand out so awkwardly from it. I was never a fan of hafeez contractor's work, and this just reinforces my dislike of his work.

Anonymous said...

hi, slaint here, funny that we both posted about this. powai is crazy - definitely a different world than the rest of Mumbai! i was up there today for a work outing, bowling!

Deepa said...

What can I say, Anju. Every city has its nightmares.

London has the Gherkin:

And Hafeez, before he discovered the delights of Greco-Roman-Neo-Classical blah blah, designed this bizarre thing in Worli:

venkat said...

Wow. This is cheesiness of epic proportions without any ironic framework to make it work, like say Vegas.

Deepa said...

Contractor is a very intelligent guy, at least from the interviews I've read in the press. And he's very no-nonsense abotu giving customers what they want.

I think in Powai, people got what they wanted.

In 2003, India Today named him in their Power List 2003 "because he's altered the Indian skyline.:

Anonymous said...

I have been told quite a few times that I am aesthetically challenged and so will not get into the issue of whether the buildings look bad or good.

However, since so many peope are putting their money, dont You think we should reserve our comments till a later day?

Deepa said...

But, but....passing comments is such fun! he he he

Anonymous said...

C'mon Deepa - the Gherkin is a unique design; there doesn't seem to be anything in the least bit unique or original in Contractor's designs.

I am not against a city's landscape changing over a period of time; that's bound to happen and should be encouraged. I just would prefer that the design is inventive and reflects the times rather than be pure kitsch.

Anonymous said...

I studied for 4 years in powai. Being from a small town I felt that the Hiranadani gardens gave a palatial feeling !! I was not drawn towards them but curious about what kind of people lived there. My then girlfriend and now wife a bombayite was averse to the place. Today when I look back I understand why she never wanted to accompany me to the concrete gardens of powai and wanted to remain in the green lush campus which she fondly calls home though the time we spend there was a breeze.

Anonymous said...

It is extremely unfortunate for Mumbai that Hafeez Contractor is commercially successful. His success has given him the license to destroy whatever is left of Mumbai's skyline. When you have open land next to a lake to play with, you design tall, hybrid buildings without a designh concept and narrow streets??

Also unfortunate is the fact that such buildings are appreciated by many. Reflects on the state of the times we live in.

Anonymous said...

hafeez is basically a commercial architect. He has mastered the art for clients who want everything ready now and ready to sell. CLients are worried about FSI. They will ask the architect to squeeze in 50% more saleable area. Design and compatibality to sorroundings are a last thought.