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Watch Mumbai Explode Into A Shiny City Of Skyscrapers

This is what it looks like when a city gets a lot of tall buildings really, really fast.

Open the local newspaper in Mumbai, India, and you’ll be inundated with ads for apartments in new high rises; the city has more skyscrapers and supertalls under construction than any other city in the world. Each ad promises total luxury. “Ask yourself, how much envy can you endure?” reads one.

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When London-based photographer Alicja Dobrucka stumbled on the ads while visiting the city, she started wondering what the homes actually looked like. “I quickly realized that none of the promises of the developers for a better lifestyle matches the surrounding reality,” Dobrucka says. She decided to shoot a series of photos documenting the buildings as they rose.


The title of each photo comes from the ad copy, which Dobrucka found entertainingly hyperbolic. “If your tastes match with the President of France, we have just the home for you,” writes one. Another, promising spectacular views and “beachside joys,” looks out over the dilapidated roofs of a slum.

Each of the buildings is being constructed by foreign firms, in a bland foreign style. “I am interested in intercultural transfer,” Dobrucka says. “I feel that the architecture of the new builds is ‘borrowed’ from western office constructions which have mutated into these huge glass and concrete structures, which in India serve residential purposes.”


Dobrucka spent about two months shooting the buildings with a large-format camera. The biggest challenge, she says, was just getting permission to take the pictures. “In India the first answer you get is a ‘No! Not possible’ and you have to find a way to make it into ‘Yes!’–each case is different, depending whether it is a Maharati building you happen to climb, a slum, or a developer’s construction site.”

In the end, she photographed 18 new buildings–only a tiny sample of the skyscrapers in the city. Since the city doesn’t have any centralized urban planning, construction is happening everywhere.

Mumbai has thousands of high-rise buildings under construction now, along with hundreds of skyscrapers and over a dozen “supertalls,” buildings that are at least 1,000 feet tall. These are in addition to thousands of existing high-rises; with a population of over 12 million people, many of whom are quickly climbing into the middle class, the city’s appetite for new towers shows no signs of slowing.

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About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley, and contributed to the second edition of the bestselling book "Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century."

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