Archive for May, 2008

Paskov House one of architectural jewels of Russia was under restoration for 19 years, was closed down due to its dilapidated state. Pashkov House is named after its first owner Petr Yegorovich Pashkov, the lieutenant commander of the Life Guards of Semenovsky Regiment and the son of Peter the Great’s batman.

Pashkov House

Pashkov House

Designed by Vasily Bazhenov (1737-1799), one of Russia’s greatest architects, this mansion was erected between 1784 and 1786 for the wealthy Pashkov family. The central building is topped by a round belvedere and flanked by two service wings. The current building is a reconstruction of a private mansion that was badly damaged in the disastrous fire of 1812, which swept through the city as the first of Napoleon’s troops were arriving.

In the 19th century it housed the Rumyantsev collection of art and rare manuscripts and a library, and from 1925it has been a part of the Lenin Library, the second largest in the world, after the Library of Congress, and a magnet for international scholars, even during the Soviet era. Following the 1917 revolution, the museum was closed and the art collection was transferred to the Hermitage in St. Petersburg and the Pushkin Museum of Fine Art. The manuscripts were donated to the Russian State Library which now owns this building. Pashkov House is off-limits to the general public, but after years of neglect, the government finally pledged funds for restoration work, which began in 2003. Money for the state-financed restoration finally started to flow after the visit from Vladimir V. Putin, the former president.

In a city where architectural monuments are readily torn down or gaudily renovated beyond recognition, Pashkov House, which reopened in October after an $80 million renovation, is one of the few restoration projects lauded by preservationists.


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Antilla as seen in artists sketchTo everyone’s surprise, price tagged at $ 2 Billion, Antilla (named after the mythical island) is in India and is world’s first billion dollar home. Indeed, like its name, it houses stuff that surrounds myth!

Owner is India’s richest, Mukesh Ambani of Reliance fame whose net worth was 43 Billion in March of this year and was the 5th richest in the world.

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.

When the Ambani residence is finished in January, completing four years of design and construction, it will be 27 story and 550 feet high (height which normally houses 60 floors) with 400,000 square feet of interior space. (Click on the picture to see a video).

However, all of this has not been without its share of controversies. Antilla is being built on land sold to Ambanis’ to be used as orphanage by Waqf Board.The land measuring 11793 sq yards was sold in 2004 by the trust for a charitable purpose of looking after the destitutes and orphan children belonging to the Khoja Mohammedan community. The land was given to the Maharashtra State Board of Waqf by Jivagi Raje Scindia in 1957. The MoU was signed with four companies namely Antillia Commercials, Saphire Realtors, Rockline Constructions and Baun Foundation trust.Balroom at Antilla

The Waqf Board has told the Supreme Court that it sold the property thinking it was to be used for an orphanage and that commercial buildings are not allowed on Waqf land. Property having a market value of Rs 400 crore was sold only for Rs 21.05 cr to M/s Antillia Commercial, a company of Reliance group of Industries. Rs 16 crores were also paid to Waqf Board for No Objection Certificate.

The Supreme Court on Friday decided not to intervene in the construction of the building on Waqf board land in Mumbai and has directed the matter back to the Bombay high court.

Critics have also said that showing off such extravagant wealth in a country rife with poverty is insensitive and ethically questionable. This is excessive and ostentatious given that more than 65 percent of Mumbai’s 18 million residents live in tenements.


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Seventy-five years ago, in Los Angeles, with a no-interest loan from Dutch philanthropist Dr CH Van Der Leeuw, Viennese-American architect Richard Neutra, rightly called ‘second only to Frank Lloyd Wright’, built a radical “glass house” with rooftop and balcony gardens on Silverlake Boulevard.

Richard Neutra\'s VDL

This is the place where Neutra had designed hundreds of projects over the four continents among which are some of the finest schools, public buildings and distinguished residences. So many architects were trained here and whose careers started in this office/studio.

Neutra’s residence played host to cultural figures like Frank Lloyd Wright, Lazlo Moholy Nagy, Jorn Utson, Charles and Ray Eames; religious figures like Robert Schuler and J Krishnamurti; scientists like Rene Dubos and Linus Pauling; and to political figures and activists like John Anson Ford, Frank Wilkinson and Vice President Hubert Humphrey.

VDL, as Neutra had named his residence, was very dear to him. His ashes were later scattered in the backyard.


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