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Hafeez Contractor: Creativity, not marks make a good architect

Last updated on: September 30, 2010 09:34 IST

Hafeez Contractor: Creativity, not marks make a good architect

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Priyanka Jain for Careers360

A weak student up to class X, getting admission to an architecture college proved to be an expedition for this renowned architect!

Yet, he maintains that creativity and not merely good marks maketh a good architect. Hafeez Contractor talks to Priyanka Jain about his career trajectory, and tips for aspiring architects.

How did you get clarity about your career?

I wanted to be an architect since I was in Class III, though I didn't know the term "architecture" or "design" back then. I would design forts, tanks, cars, guns, sections of a building. In Class IV, I was thrashed by my English teacher Mrs Gupta who caught me drawing instead of writing in class. But she also told me to become an architect when I grew up. That was the first time I heard the word 'architect'.

How tough was the admission process back then?

I got 50 per cent marks in SSC and could not get even an admission form to any architecture college. JJ School of Architecture only gave forms to those with 80 per cent and above. After a year of doing the rounds at various colleges I came to know of the Academy of Architecture, and coaxed a nice elderly Parsi gentleman Mr Dallas, Head of Indian Institute of Architecture, to help me. He wrote to Mr Wandhrekar at the Academy of Architecture, who in turn allowed me to take the entrance exam.

The only condition to get admission was to pass the entrance exam, and I did! Today, I tell people that to be an architect you need to be a creative person and not someone who is good at studies.

I never got more than 50 per cent up to SSC but once I joined architecture, I stood first class first throughout. It shows that the way our education system is, even when people want to be architects, they are not able to do so because of academic numbers.

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Image: Hafeez Contractor
Photographs: Abhijit Bhatleka/Outlook Group
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'I worked 19-20 hours a day for the first 14 years'

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Your first salary and the way you spent it?

I started with Rs 30 a month in 1968. I gave it to my mom. I bought a stencil, which I had eyed for months and a pen with the rest of the money.

In the first month I got an increment of Rs 20. My studies were for seven years and during that time I had several promotions and went on to earn Rs 1,500 a month.

What were the challenges you encountered as an young architect? Has the situation changed today?

Early on I worked 19-20 hours a day for the first 14 years of my work life! As an entrepreneur, came the challenge of maintaining staff. Especially today, youngsters are more money conscious.

As a young architect, I never thought about how much I am going to get out of a project. I just wanted to work. Today every kid first wants to know how much he will earn. Values have changed.

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Image: DLF-Corporate Park-Dlf City, Gurgaon, Haryana
Photographs: Courtesy hafeezcontractor.com
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'Change and hard work is the only constant'

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What are the turning points of your career? Which project gave you visibility?

Right from my initial project of Vaastu at Worli, to Rajneesh Ashram, to Lake Castle, to my DLF building in Delhi, everything has been a turning point. Today also every new job has to be a turning point. And unless and until you do that, you better retire.

What sort of attitude does one need to be a successful architect?

The attitude for every professional, at any stage of career, should be that you started your career yesterday and you want to make it good today. Keep abreast of the changes in your profession, what's new, how you could adapt and change with time.

Change and hard work being the only constant.


Image: Infosys SDB, Park 4, Mysore
Photographs: Courtesy hafeezcontractor.com
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