"We have never seen such good times for the industry in this country," says Hafeez Contractor, one of India’s most vocal architects. With a staff of 280 people and growing, his firm is overflowing its Mumbai office to new promises. And the work keeps coming. "At least for my lifetime, we are OK," says the 55-year-old graduate of Mumbai University and New York City’s Columbia University.

Living in the densely populated island city of Mumbai, Contractor sees high-rise construction as the only way for populous India to develop and leave green space. But the 710-meter-tall cluster of spiky towers forming his proposed centerpiece building for Delhi’s overflow town of Noida is probably more symbolic than a real prospect.

Much of his work is driven by the booming demand for buildings serving the information technology industry, he says. "Seventy percent of India’s construction economy is driven by IT," he says. Housing, retail and other commercial buildings follow in the wake of these developments. "Everything is driven by IT parks."

Symbolic. Ambitious tower is iffy but building vertically will save green space.

But housing India’s huge population, much of it devoid of proper homes, is placing almost limitless demands on construction, says Contractor. He is working with the conglomerate Sahara Infrastructure and Housing on a vastly ambitious program to build 217 greenfield City Homes.

City Homes are planned as complete mini-cities for middle class Indians escaping the cramped conditions. They will be equipped with shops, hotels, schools, hospitals, leisure facilities and other community services, set in plots of 40 to 120 hectares that are close to transportation routes. Homes will range from small individual houses to high-rise apartments.

Sahara says it started building the first three this year as part of its plan for 100 million sq meters of residential space and 3 million sq m of commercial space. "We have submitted plans for approval of 50 to 60 sites," says Contractor. With the projects demanding so much construction, "it’s going to be very difficult to get that number of contractors," he says. "There’s a lot of work in this country…everybody’s hands are full."

In Mumbai, the architect has been working since the late 1990s on a government program to build high-rise commercial towers on slum land, and use some of the proceeds to subsidize low-cost housing. Mumbai’s demand for new building is vast. Over half the city population of some 18 million people live in slums, he says. And of the rest of the building inventory, 80% "are fit for demolition."

(Rendering top courtesy of Architect Hafeez Contractor)

Special Report: India
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