This article was written for Business Insider by a luxury property developer who wishes to remain anonymous so as not to offend his investors or clients. He is not associated with One Hyde Park.
One Hyde Park is said by some to be the most exclusive address in London — maybe the world. In 2010, a penthouse there sold for a rumoured £140 million, which makes it the most expensive residential building on Earth, if true.
Developed by the Candy brothers, it sits pride of place in Knightsbridge overlooking, as its name suggests, Hyde Park. To give you an idea of the kind of people who live inside One Hyde Park, consider the shops inside the development: Rolex, McLaren Automotive and Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank.
As a luxury real estate developer who has worked in the world of inward UK investment for the past 10 years, I have advised some of the world’s wealthiest individuals, family offices and international companies.
I recently visited One Hyde Park to view two “newly released” apartments for sale by the developer, Candy & Candy. (I was just curious. I had no intention or indeed means to buy anything.) Given that the first apartments went on sale some eight years ago it might be said that’s a long sales cycle.
£10 million for a one-bedroom flat
On approaching you’re aware of being scanned by the bowler-hatted guards, who have the bearing of a team charged with securing a military base rather than a central London block of flats. If you are one of the few people owning apartments in the building who actually visit — some owners appear to be absentee property investors — does this security bolster your self image or merely add to a nagging fear and paranoia of the world outside your “super rich bubble”?
I consider just saying hello and walking in, as you would in any other central London apartment block or hotel, but it is made very clear that’s not an option.
Having provided the correct “password” I enter the bubble and the vacuum lock is closed behind me.
There is silence and marble
In fact rather a lot of marble.
I’ve left the cosmopolitan atmosphere of London — an energetic city that bustles with creativity and chaos — and I’ve entered the bland, monochrome world of the super rich. Along with mere mortals, colour, noise and indeed any sign of vibrancy has been excluded.
Staff in buttoned-down uniforms look down in silence at (presumably) computer screens behind the reception desk. No one looks up. Others wander down the staircase, but except the sales agent and a representative of the Candy brothers, who I am meeting, there is no one else to clutter the marble. No “neighbours,” in other words.
Everyone viewing these apartments must be accompanied by a Candy representative, ostensibly there to answer any questions. We take the lift up, which opens onto a long silent corridor. Turning a corner, workmen are making minor repairs to a sea of marble. They virtually flatten themselves against the wall, look down, and make no eye contact.
No eye contact from staff
No eye contact from staff seems to be some sort of rule. Does this make the residents as uncomfortable as me, or is it what they expect?
We must remove our shoes before entering the apartment, I am not allowed to take any photographs (image control). And I am told I must purchase the furniture and fittings that the developer has dressed the apartment in. I can’t even have my own stuff!
The apartment’s fixtures, soft furnishings and furniture are all monochrome, marble and silent. The bay window overlooking Knightsbridge lets in no sound from the busy junction below. Red buses, black cabs and people going about their business are framed as a silent movie. There is no apparent way to open a window. Your air will be provided by an air conditioning system, and your food by a corridor linked to The Mandarin Hotel next door.
I feel no connection to London beyond the walls. Not even your fellow residents. You might expect to wave to your neighbours as you stand in the bay, but vertical slats prevent anyone seeing anybody else.
The isolation is complete
After seeing another apartment (you’ve guessed the decor), the gym, and swimming pool, and seeing no one — not a single person — in the building other than staff, I make my excuses and leave.
Of course walking in or out the front door could be viewed as breaking the rules of this club, as no real resident would do so without a driver waiting at the rear entrance to whisk them to another airtight building.
As I walk on to the pavement I’m immediately hit by noise and smells, real life. One Hyde Park is a testimony to a class who believe they are divorced from the rest of society and are happy to isolate themselves from it.
They have succeeded in building a soulless palace devoid of life.
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