It is said that “sometimes all you need is a different perspective to read beyond lines.” No matter how deep the architecture becomes a belief of various philosophical ideas, the perspective of the person looking at it is highly determined by the previous sets of landscapes their eyes have witnessed. Over the century, various architects have come up with projects and innovative ideas in which some were loved while some were labeled as blunders to creativity. One such contemporary in the twenty-first century is Antilia, a private residence of one of the world’s wealthiest people, Mukesh Ambani, and his family in Mumbai.
Cooperatively commissioned to the American firms Perkins + Will and Hirsch Bedner Associates, Antilia took seven years to lay its mark in Mumbai’s skyline. This 173m high residence is a vertical combination of various green, open and closed spaces that house multiple facilities such as private cinemas, swimming pools, car service centers, and grand ballrooms. The planning of spaces of varying requirements as per their functions and the principal residences on the top are some of the exciting things the architects find interesting to study. However, the drawings and specifications of the edifice remain secretive and are a subject of speculations. As far as the collected information from various sources, be it the staff assisting the family to the neighbors living by and the owners themselves, the big picture remains a matter of curiosity to most of us. Amid a lot of controversial arguments, Mrs. Ambani says it to be a modern home with an Indian heart. For her, it is the only home that they have in the world. She wanted the house at such an elevated height to avail maximum sunlight. She calls it an elevated house on top of a garden.
The building interiors are decorated with the palette of the theme-specific set of rare materials. The residence is designed to keep the background, lifestyle, the work schedule of the inhabiting family. However, some architects argue that their lifestyle could have been translated as a better design solution than what we see today in the edifice. Some see it as an important landmark in their neighborhood while some call it a reckless show of power. The building has been accompanied by the existence of such controversies and remains one of the most talked-about buildings since the day it was proposed. Disputes over the land on which the building stands further add to it. But this justifies as a reason to call Antilia a controversial piece of architecture?
Considering it as a tremendous architectural challenge, great care was taken while designing the spaces, especially the transitional spaces that evolve between the public-private zones in this billion-dollar residence in an urban fabric of Mumbai. Seeing it through the spectacle of the modernist idiom ‘form follows function’, the building serves its purpose well as the inhabitants are concerned. Though the building seems to look jarring, it has been an architectural challenge to manage peculiar space needs such as that of three helipads over it. The 27 floors of the Antilia are precisely equal to sixty floors of a generic multi-storeyed building. Further adding to its unanimity, no two floors in the building have similar plans making this stack of books looking arrangement an engineering challenge too. To feed the paradigm shift of building vertically in India, the design of Antilia sets as an example in its immediate context, designed as a part of a setting with vertical needs. Famous Indian Architect Hafeez contractor praises Antilia for its efficient land use through architecture.
Examining based on basic design principles, there is a visual disconnect in fenestrations at various floor levels. The play of spaces restricted to one side make some faces visually appear like a regular building. The folding lines in the elevation and the stacking of volumes seems like a common overused trend, but it is better than box type building as it opens up various possibilities to the folded glass skin. These design elements, along with some other usual architecture details such as checkered patterns in the facade and planning on the lower floors, might seem flawless but are some of the cliche trends that may not look up to do justice with the expense it possesses. Considering the backgrounds the project holds, instead of coming out as a unique design with an iconic character, some consider the building came out as a combination of recycled generic ideas that require high maintenance. Finding its slot based on function, the Antilia swings somewhere in between a hotel and an apartment in which a lot of elements are composed together, none dominating.
Being owned by a billionaire business tycoon, Antilia, as one of the world’s most expensive addresses, becomes a bold statement. However, standing tall in contrast to the slums in Mumbai, the building is often identified as another silhouette in the skyline of Mumbai that lacks emotional sentiments and human language. The building becomes a creation to face emotional judgments and to be seen as a symbol of social-economic disparity in the cultural landscape of Mumbai. Ratan Tata, a leading industrialist, finds Antilia as irrelevant on a humanitarian basis. The arguments have their foundation and ways of seeing with suitable grounds. However, keeping the robe of emotional judgments aside, for architects, Antilia still serves as a piece of abstract art that can be openly examined, interpreted, and talked about considering various dimensional perspectives.