The Slumdog Millionaire Architect
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
The offices of Hafeez Contractor, India’s most commercially successful architect, are on Bank Street, just around the corner from the Mumbai Stock Exchange. The prestige of the address, however, is undermined by the beleaguered state of the Raj-era building. In the reception area, a flat-screen displaying a loop of Contractor’s futuristic projects is mounted on a cracked, stained plaster wall. Upstairs, hundreds of designers sit shoulder to shoulder at long rows of computer monitors, packed in almost as mercilessly as on the commuter trains that ferry them to work each day. The office has struggled to keep up with the firm’s expanding work force and is perpetually under construction. Staff members were known to walk 15 minutes to the five-star Taj Mahal Palace Hotel rather than brave the employee-restroom line. Contractor has vastly increased his square footage by building a loft, but a day at the office now entails ducking through archways, dodging stray wires and ignoring the wail of power saws.