Remember Antilia, Indian business tycoon Mukesh Ambani's 398,000-square-foot skyscraper/house on chichi Altamont Road in Mumbai?
When construction of the aggressively opulent, bigger-than-Versailles abode wrapped up about a year ago, the project managed to raise more than a few of eyebrows and not just in Mumbai, where a huge chunk of the population resides in slums. Initially touted as a feat of green home building, the Perkins + Will-designed mega-home does indeed boast some eco-features including a four-story, Hanging Gardens of Babylon-inspired living wall that keeps the structure’s interior warm in the winter and cool during the summer months. But in the end, the home’s mind-boggling square footage (features include three heliports, 150-car garage, nine elevators,
and enough guest bedrooms to make Candy Spelling weak in the knees) rendered any claims of sustainability obsolete.
Now, after all the hoopla around Antilia's completion, it turns out that Ambani and his family aren't even living in the home and plans to move in on a full-time basis are uncertain. Rumors about why Ambani would build such a pricey pad — it's the first billion dollar single-family home in the world — and then choose to use it as a pied-á-terre are varied. According to a recent article in The New York Times, one popular explanation is that the design of Antilia does not fully adhere to Vastu Shastra, an Indian architectural tradition that, when not followed, is thought to bring bad luck to a building — just think of it as the Hindu counterpart to feng shui.
You'd think that something as crucial as Vastu would be taken into account during the design of such a massive (and massively expensive) project, but it looks like some elements of the same ancient design doctrine used in building Hindu temples were overlooked.
Vastu expert Basannt R. Rasiwasia explains to the NYT that the lack of windows on the building's eastern side could play a role in Ambani's purported semi-absentee homeowner-ism:
"From the outside what I see is that the eastern side is blocked while the western side is more open. This always leads to misunderstanding between team members or sometime may create issues. This also indicates more hard work to achieve moderate success. There is more negative energy coming from the western side."
Last May, a "highly placed source" told DNA, an English-language newspaper in Mumbai, that after Antilia was furnished, "a few guests were invited for a 'housewarming' of sorts but the family horoscope and Vastu Shastra are not matching, and the family, unwilling to risk it, is trying to find a remedial way out."
Whatever the case, close friends of the Ambani family, all choosing to remain anonymous, confirm that the home's master and his family have indeed set foot inside of Antilia on numerous occasions — and have thrown several lavish parties there — but only sleep there "sometimes." Instead, they reportedly pack their bags and head back across town to Sea Wind, Ambani's slightly-more-modest, Vastu-correct 14-story home. "They live in both places," a spokesperson for Ambani's company, Reliance Industries, admits.
While I respect astrology-influenced architectural traditions like Vastu, I'm thinking that if you go out of your way to build the world's most expensive home in the middle of a city that's rife with poverty, you better damned well sleep there more than once every couple of months ... even if it clashes with your horoscope. You'd think that in this day and age and with Ambani's kind of resources, a home's off-center spiritual energy, like a leaky pipe, could be fixed.
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