Sunday, April 01, 2007

Indian World's Tallest Building Aspirants

A rash of new developments promises to change India's traditionally low FSI structure and throw up a bunch of potential claimants to the title of the World's Tallest Building.


India has traditionally been a low Floor Space Index country, which has resulted in relatively few skyscrapers (buildings over 24m in height) outside of downtown Bombay. Even in the financial capital the towering structures top out at just under 160 m , with the Shreepati Arcade and the MVRDC World Trade Centre. Some structures under construction like the SD Towers would actually breach the 200m mark. 160m or even 200m is tiny by world standards where the Empire State Building set a 449 m record way back in 1931. In fact India has fallen so far down in the global tall building stakes that Qingdao a small city in China, has more high rise buildings than the whole of India and more than twice as tall buildings.

In 1998, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi announced plans to build a giant 678 m building near Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh to house his "World Capital". At that height it would not only have dwarfed the then world's tallest Petronas Towers, or the current Taipei 101, but would have made them seem rather small in volume too. Few people took this claim seriously, and today mentions are largely confined to email forwards.

The more serious and purely commercial proposals would not come until the turn of the millennium.

The Noida Tower

The next big blow in the World's Tallest Building (WTB) stakes in India came almost 7 years later was from Hafeez Contractor when he proposed the Noida Tower. At 710m it would tower over all except the Burj Dubai which would top out at 800m. The proposed design is either pretty cool, or monstrously ugly, depending on who you ask - though to the credit of the designer it never fails to evoke a response. "The building is to look like the peaks of Himalayas, and is scheduled to be open for business by 2013. The building will contain a 50-floor five-star hotel, a 40-story glass atrium and 370,000 sq meters of shopping space." (Link) It will be part of the Noida City Center built over 140 hectares.

Gurgaon's Sector 29

Last year another Delhi satellite town, Gurgaon, jumped into the fray. Gurgaon intends to build 4 towers of 140 floors each as part of its Golden Triangle City Center in Sector 29. While the Noida Tower seems to be caught up in the city bureaucracy, the Gurgaon proposal comes from the Haryana govt. Also unlike in Noida, Gurgaon has elaborate plans to tackle the parking and transportation problems that are inherent when such huge structures come up. These include multi-level parking structures, and both monorail and metro connectivity to ease traffic congestion.

Manhattans of Delhi and Mumbai

This year the results of opening the "floodgates for FDI" in real estate are finally showing. The first quarter of this year alone saw major FDI (and local) investment commitments into 4 mega-construction projects, which if successful should bring 4 new mini-cities onto the map of India. The "mini" prefix might be redundant though because two of those being built by DLF and the Al Nakheel group from Dubai on a 50:50 basis are each being planned to be "three times the size of Manhattan". These would be one each outside Delhi and Mumbai, on 20,000 acres each. Now the comparison to Manhattan one hopes will extend to the height of the buildings in these cities. And if that happens, we should go someway towards an Indian presence in the tallest buildings in the world list. Better still, we might see serious competition between Indian cities and construction companies to build the tallest building in India.

All said and done, the skylines of Indian cities are likely to see some serious alterations.