Mumbai is home to one of India’s richest men, Mukesh Ambani. His residence is probably the most extreme spatial manifestation of the super rich. His Antilia residence towers 170 meters above the city.
While New York’s super high net worth individuals cram into super slender skyscrapers, the boss of Reliance Industries has built a skyscraper entirely for himself and his family. As Mumbai is a city of medium height, the visual impact of Antilia is all the greater, as seen above. And in a city that accommodates more than half of its inhabitants in slums, the contrast between haves and have-nots could not be more extreme.
Due to the secretive nature of its inhabitant, the building’s exact specs are left to speculation. It allegedly takes 600 employees to keep the place up and running. Construction cost estimates range from USD 1 to 2 billion, whereas a Reliance spokesman told the NYT in 2008 that it would just cost USD 50-70 million to build, a gross understatement by any norms.
The Antilia’s 27 floors contain private residences, ballroom, guest suites, spa, and a theater. Architecturally, the building looks like a weird concoction of geometric shapes, with setbacks and open terraces stacked on top of each other using columns, alternating with curtain-walled glass facades.
To add insult to injury, the US-based architects engaged in some greenwashing back when construction hadn’t started. Ubiquituous builder Hafeez Contractor chimed in the laudatio hoping that Antilia would lead to skyscrapers being more accepted in Mumbai’s congested urban fabric.
The looks of Antilia somehow reminded me of Tokyu’s Hikarie Building next to Shibuya station in Tokyo. While perhaps not as architecturally controversial as the Antilia, the comparison works in one other important aspect. As a publicly-accessible office building with museums and other cultural offerings high up on the eleventh floor, the Hikarie building is on the other end of the spectrum on the public-private space divide.