Mukesh Ambani’s Palace In The Sky
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Mukesh Ambani, India’s wealthiest resident (and the world’s fifth richest person), is building a 60-story vertical palace in Mumbai, complete with a helipad, swimming pool and space to park about 170 cars. Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries, is reportedly spending $2 billion (Rs. 4,000 crores) for the home in posh south Mumbai (situated in posh Altamount Road). That would make it vie for the title of the most expensive home in the world. Ambani bought the 49,000-square-foot plot in 2002, and the home was designed by Chicago’s eminent skilled designer Perkins and Will. The tower, complete with three floors of gardens and two floors of pools, will rise to 570 feet, or the height of a 60-story residential building, but will have only 27 floors. The top four floors, with a panoramic view of the city and the Arabian Sea beyond, are expected to be for Ambani, his wife Nita, mother Kokilaben and the couple’s three kids. Around 600 staff will reportedly be employed at the house to wait on India’s first industrial family. Two others floors will be exclusively for guests and a mini-theater. The Ambanis aren’t answering questions on the house, to be named after the mythical island Antilla. In a city cramped for space but not yet spotted with skyscrapers, the Ambanis’ idea has found favor with leading Mumbai-based architect Hafeez Contractor. “This is a right way to build a private house in a congested city. A man like him in any other city would have 10 to 15 acres of land to himself. In a congested city, he wants to go high up and enjoy the view; the whole city becomes his open space,” Contractor says. The architect didn’t know of any other home as opulent but said that India’s wealth transformation was apparent in the way clients wanted larger homes and opted for bigger imported cars, egged on by liberalizing trade and tax policies. “Ambani’s choice will make high-rises more acceptable,” says Contractor. “I’ve been advocating high-rises that are environmentally friendly, since you occupy less space on the ground that can be used for gardens.”
Around 6.5 million of Mumbai’s estimated 15 million residents live in slums. Social commentator and author Jerry Pinto says extravaganzas have always been expected from India’s rich. “What always startles visitors to India is the contrast between abject poverty and ostentatious displays of wealth. … But there’s no active resentment [among the poor], otherwise there would have been class wars years ago,” Pinto pointed out. In a city where there are slums right outside some of the most expensive homes, Pinto says people will continue to see “expensive imported cars splash mud on potbellied street children. That’s the signature of this country; it’s not going away soon.” And assuredly, once Mukesh Ambani’s house with its multiple pools, gym and gardens is ready, thousands will flock to the surrounding streets for a glimpse of how the rich live.