As our cities climb skywards, we dig deeper into our pockets to afford space. It's not just about location anymore. It's all about luxury, with each developer trying to do outdo his competitors by offering one facility after another. One developer is trying to stand out in this race, saying what many may think but few dare to voice.
"Luxury must be practical," says Ali Lokhandwala, joint MD, Lokhandwala Constructions, "What's the point of introducing such excessive automation in the house that children or maids have difficulty in operating it?" he asks. Luxury for Lokhandwala must straddle the dual requirements of practicality and continuity. "It is all good to be swayed by the prospect of staying in a centrally air-conditioned building. But being hit by mile high electricity bills at the end of the month will hardly be pretty," he says.
Over his 18-year stint in real estate, Lokhandwala has ensured that his personal beliefs reflect in his work and offerings. Like his fascination for vertical structures. Staying in a penthouse on the 30th floor, he enjoys sweeping views of the city and the seas beyond. "I want my customers to enjoy this lifestyle," says he, sitting at the site office of his "luxury" project Minerva Towers, all 82 f loors of which will eventually overlook the Mahalaxmi racecourse.
That he is drawn towards the skyscraper is evident as he picks out his favourite global constructions: The Empire State building in New York, the Willis Tower in Chicago, the Petronas towers in Kuala Lumpur. But in this list also features Spanish architect Antoni Goudi's Casa Batllo. "My whole life revolves around architecture. I love observing structures when I travel and studying their architecture, whether modern or Art Deco, Spanish or Roman," says Lokhandwala, "In fact when I come back from my travels, you'll see picture after picture of buildings without people. Not surprisingly, my wife often asks me to keep my eyes on the road and drive."
But it is not just about the visual pleasure these structures afford or the opportunity to revel in history that they present. It is business too. In the early 2000s, Lokhandwala was holidaying in Miami. He saw buildings with palm trees right in the centre. He quickly snapped a few pictures and showed them to his architect, Hafeez Contractor on his return. The result: in their next project, Lokhandwala Residency, the swimming pool was put in the centre, surrounded by palm trees and canopies, with different building wings overlooking the pool.
Lokhandwala may love tall structures but he collects miniatures: A little colosseum here, a Petronas tower there. It is when the day drags with unending visits to the municipal corporation office or donning multiple hats at work, that these miniatures on his desk offer a happy, if momentary escape from the daily tedium.