Life on a New High: Mumbai skyscrapers
photographed by Alicja Dobrucka

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Photo essay: Polish photographer Alicja Dobrucka has produced a series of images documenting the rapid growth of skyscraper construction in Mumbai, India (+ slideshow).

According to Dobrucka, there are currently more skyscrapers under construction in Mumbai than anywhere else in the world, many of them unregulated, adding to over 2500 high-rise buildings that already exist in the city. These luxury apartment blocks are in stark contrast to the surrounding "desolate slums", which the photographer says account for 62 percent of the population.

The Life on a New High series depicts a selection of these new buildings and their surroundings, and couples each one with a quote from a property advert, highlighting the disparity between the new high-end consumer and the slum residents.

Mumbai is currently home to the largest number of supertalls and skyscrapers under construction in the world. This project, entitled Life on a New High, aims to address the issue of the changing landscape and unregulated construction in this financial capital of India.

The city is undergoing a massive construction boom, with more than 15 supertalls (buildings taller than 300 metres), hundreds of skyscrapers and thousands of high-rise buildings under construction.

More than 2500 high-rise buildings are already constructed, in addition to more than a thousand mid-rises existing already. Most of the skyscrapers are residential. Even the richest man in the city lives in a skyscraper. Antilia is one of the taller towers in which 27 floors accommodate a family of four and 200 servants.

The population density is estimated to be about 20,482 persons per square-kilometre. The living space is 4.5 square metres per person. The number of slum-dwellers is estimated to be nine million, that is, 62 percent of all Mumbaikers live in desolate slums.

There is no centralised urban planning and towers keep popping up in all areas of central Mumbai, particularly on the huge pieces of land that accommodated textile factories now closed, as well as in the suburbs. The building companies are supported by the government and are given tax exemption.

All the skyscrapers are constructed by international companies, in many instances from Denmark. The architecture of the new risers has no relation to the Indian cityscape - European architecture is being transplanted to India, transforming this country in the process.

This building boom creates a great deal of problems and makes the city difficult to negotiate on foot. It is also damaging to the environment as the large glass windows require air conditioning, which in turn increases the consumption of electricity.

Advertising agencies appeal to the newly rich, the up-and-coming middle class, using slogans such as: "You don't just invite friends over, you invite awe". The new Indian luxury consumer is pursuing a lifestyle where owning an apartment in the "newly builds", as much as possessing exclusive items, is seen as a clear sign of wealth and power.

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  • Charlie Bing

    Maybe it’s just me, but juxtaposing those skyscrapers, slums and marketing slogans is a bit bloody much for my stomach. “Will you be one of the chosen few?” Talk about the effluence of affluence. And isn’t slide #8 the private home, all 27 floors of it, of the execrable Mukesh Ambani, complete with nine elevators, 6 parking levels of parking and three helipads, by some accounts?

    Yeah, maybe it is just me.

    • Akhil

      I wonder why you’re getting so uppity when in the USA, only 1% of the top hold as much money as the bottom 99% combined.

      You should probably worry more about that.

  • Eva Lerman

    20800 person / square km – so low?!

    • Akhil

      How’s that low?

  • Daniel Brown

    Fantastic imagery + contrast, more like this please!

  • Dharmesh Thakker

    - I do not think any of the towers depicted in pictures here are constructed without any planning permissions. Stringent building regulations do exist in Mumbai and are followed too!

    – Slums do not necessarily mean ‘desolate’, there are slums which have a strong manufacturing economy and their kids go to school.

    – Not all skyscrapers in Mumbai are constructed by international companies.

    – A warm weather requires air cooling just as a cold weather needs air heating. Many houses in slums do have air conditioning and refrigerators in Mumbai.

    I appreciate the photographic work and I understand that it is difficult to get access to many private properties. But, the text of this article is fallacious and does not tell the truth. At many instances it reflects naivety and Euro-centric vision of Mumbai.

  • Jigra

    “All the skyscrapers are constructed by international companies, in many instances from Denmark”

    This isn’t the case, Lodha, DLF, Tata Housing, Omkar builders never heard of them?

    I have barely heard 2-3 international companies, most are Indian. This pretty much shows how poorly researched the article is.

    “62% in slum”

    Sure… and who exactly is living in those 2500 high rises then? Again seems like a dubious claim.

    “The architecture of the new risers has no relation to the Indian cityscape – European architecture is being transplanted to India, transforming this country in the process.”

    Again a dubious claim. Europeans don’t have exclusive rights to skyscrapers, they are found all around the world and then given that almost 90% of the high rises are being built by Indian companies. This claim is also meaningless.

    • Siddharth Raghupatruni

      By international they mean international architects. That’s why they look European. Perhaps Namaste Tower could change that.

  • Akhil

    Anyone can post a part of town amongst some high-risers to show the “contrast”.

    Ever been to bronx in NYC? Or Detroit? Every city has that part, but I don’t see any westerner pointing to that contrast.

    it’s not the fault of Mumbai residents that westerners are obsessed with taking slum photos.