Mukesh Ambani, the world's fifth richest man with a net worth of $43 billion, has set a new record - owning a home worth a whopping $2 billion.
According to a Forbes report titled, Inside The World's First Billion-Dollar Home, the new house of the chairman of top listed petro-chemical refiner Reliance Industries (RIL) could well be the only billion-dollar house in the world owned by an individual.
The house does not cost nearly $2 billion for nothing, Forbes said. The 550 feet high 27-storey structure (equivalent in height to a normal 60-storey structure) will boast of 4,00,000 square feet of interior space when it is completed in January 2009.
The only remotely comparable high-rise property currently on the market is the 70 million dollar triplex penthouse at the Pierre Hotel in New York, designed to resemble a French chateau, and climbing 525 feet in the air, Forbes said in its report.
The Ambanis had consulted with architecture firms Perkins + Will and Hirsch Bedner Associates, the designers behind the Mandarin Oriental, based in Dallas and Los Angeles, respectively to build the highrise on Altamount Road in posh south Mumbai (where real estate prices are now in the region of $2000 per sq ft).
The palatial structure, called Antilla (named after the mythical island), would cost more than a hotel or high-rise of similar size or structure because of its custom measurements and fittings.
While a hotel or condominium has a common layout, replicated on every floor, and uses the same materials throughout the building (such as door handles, floors, lamps and window treatments), the Ambanis' home has no two floor alike in either plans or materials used, Forbes said.
At the request of Nita Ambani (Mukesh Ambani's wife), say the designers, if a metal, wood or crystal is part of the ninth-floor design, it shouldn't be used on the eleventh floor, for example. The idea is to blend styles and architectural elements so spaces give the feel of consistency, but without repetition, the report said.
The structure also complies with Vaastu, an Indian tradition much like Feng Shui that is said to move energy beneficially through the building by strategically placing materials, rooms and objects, it said.
Juxtaposing newer designs are elements of Indian culture. For example, the sinks in a lounge extending off the entertainment level, which features a movie theater and wine room, are shaped like ginkgo leaves (native to India) with the stem extending to the faucet to guide the water into the basin, the report continued.
Needless to say, Antilla smacks of opulence. While six floors of the building are dedicated to exclusive car parking, one floor has been made solely for car maintenance.
An entire floor has been dedicated for a large ballroom with 80 percent of its ceiling covered in crystal chandeliers, the report said, adding, It features a retractable showcase for pieces of art, a mount of LCD monitors and embedded speakers, as well as stages for entertainment.
The hall opens to an indoor/outdoor bar, green rooms, powder rooms and allows access to a nearby entourage room for security guards and assistants to relax, it said.
One floor, the entertainment level, comprise a mini-theater with a seating capacity of 50 people and a wine room.
On the health level, local plants decorate the outdoor patio near the swimming pool, healthclub, gym and yoga studio. The floor also features an ice room where residents and guests can escape the Mumbai heat to a small, cooled chamber dusted by man-made snow flurries, Forbes said.
Once complete, the Ambanis will also be able to enjoy four floors of open terrace garden. Gardens, whether hanging hydroponic plants, or fixed trees, are a critical part of the building's exterior adornment but also serve a purpose: The plants act as an energy-saving device by absorbing sunlight, thus deflecting it from the living spaces and making it easier to keep the interior cool in summer and warm in winter, the report continued.
An internal core space on the garden level contains entertaining rooms and balconies that clear the tree line and offer views of downtown Mumbai, it said.
Besides all these, there are two floors of glass-fronted apartments for guests, while the top four floors, with a panoramic view of the city and the Arabian Sea beyond, are expected to be for Mukesh Ambani, his wife Nita, mother Kokilaben and the couple's three kids.
The family currently live in a 22-storey tower in Mumbai, which the family has spent years remodeling to suit its needs.
And, the topmost floor will serve as an air space level which will act as a control room for helicopters landing on the three rooftop helipads above.
The entire building will have nine elevators and 600 servants will be employed to make sure that everything is in order.
However, Antilla is not free from problems. The Maharashtra State Waqf Board has accused the Ambanis of deceitfully acquiring the 4532 square meter of land from them, the same piece of plot on which the Antilla is coming up.
The Waqf Board has told the Supreme Court that the plot in dispute was given to Maharashtra State Waqf Board in 1957 by Jivaji Raje Scindia and was being used by a trust, set up by social activist and philanthropist Currimbhoy Ebrahim Khoja, to look after destitutes and orphans belonging to the Khoja Mohammedan community.
After the Waqf Act was legislated, the properties belonging to the orphanage as well as other similar ones came to be treated as Waqf properties, which can be sold only with its permission, the Waqf Board contended.
The Matunga-based Currimbhoy Ebrahim Khoja Orphanage, however, sold the land to Antilia Commercial Private Ltd, a company floated by the Ambani family in May 2002 without the Waqf Board's permission for Rs.21 crore ($5.25 million), much below its estimated market value of Rs.400 crore ($100 million).
The sale deed also stipulated that Antilla would be using the land only for pious, religious and charitable purposes as desired by Ebrahim Khoja, a condition which was later even waived off by the orphanage trustees in connivance with an erstwhile Waqf Board chairman who wrongly accepted Rs.16 lakhs ($40,000) from the Ambanis to settle the deal and waive off objections to it.
However, on May 2, the Supreme Court granted temporary relief to the Ambanis by announcing that it would not intervene in the construction of the building on Waqf Board land in Mumbai and has directed the matter back to the Bombay High Court. Earlier, the Bombay High Court had stayed the Waqf Board proceedings.
Meanwhile, many people have criticized Ambani for opulent display of his wealth in a city which also shelters the biggest slum in Asia, Dharavi, which houses about 600,000 people in ramshackle buildings.
According to Praful Bidwai, a newspaper columnist, the divide between rich and poor was becoming acute and with Mr. Ambani...building an edifice to reflect his own ego, the tide of anger about such absurd spending would only keep growing.
It will not go down well with the public, he warned.