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'One Hyde Park' - A Rare Glimpse Inside The World’s Most Expensive Apartments

In London's most luxurious apartment complex, Arab sheiks and Russian oligarchs share a movie theater and private golf course. A two-story penthouse here recently sold for 162 million euros, a new record for the most expensive home on the planet.

Indulge in a lap of luxury (One Hyde Park)
Indulge in a lap of luxury (One Hyde Park)
Tina Kaiser

LONDON - Without an invitation from a resident, you're not even going to make it past the lobby of London's most exclusive building. The barrage of dark-suited, grim-faced men standing at the entrance to the glass and steel One Hyde Park complex won't let you. If you have an invitation, they'll radio the building's security to run a check and make sure that you are who you say you are. Only then may you proceed inside.

Bulletproof glass, panic rooms, iris recognition scanners in the elevators – security here is as tight as in an embassy, and not without reason. After all, the owners of the 86 luxury apartments in this building are among the richest and most influential people in the world. Arab sheiks, Russian oligarchs, European billionaires, 22 nationalities are represented in the apartment complex overlooking London's Hyde Park.

In its sales literature, the real estate developer Project Grande calls One Hyde Park the most expensive residential address in the world. And they proved it by selling a two-story penthouse for 136 million pounds (162 million euros) – setting the world record for the most expensive home on the planet.

According to British media reports, the buyer is Rinat Akhmetov, the richest man in Ukraine -- with a fortune estimated at 12 billion euros. He is said to have invested a further 72 million euros furnishing the place.

What makes One Hyde Park so unique is first and foremost its location. The complex, comprised of four linked glass buildings, is on the south side of London's best-known park, in the Knightsbridge area. Harrods department store, and the Serpentine and Saatchi art galleries are just a stone's throw away. To the right of One Hyde Park is the five-star Mandarin Oriental hotel, which connects to the complex via an underground passageway. Project Grande has a service contract with the hotel: sixty-eight Mandarin Oriental employees tend exclusively to every wish emanating from residents of One Hyde Park, around the clock. Without leaving their apartment, they can ask a concierge to book theater tickets, send the Rolls Royce round, dispatch a housekeeper to clean the tub, or order a gourmet meal from the hotel's signature restaurant Dinner by Heston Blumenthal.

"Service is very important for our clients," says real estate agent Miles Wood of Savills, the London real estate company selling the flats. Buyers travel constantly, and One Hyde Park is one of many residences, he says. "We have a sheik, for example, who already owns a house in London but used to stay at a hotel because he couldn't be bothered to do the house up."

An entire oak forest

In One Hyde Park, on the other hand, after a tiring long-distance flight, residents can order a meal or have a masseur come to their digs. And when pitching to younger prospective clients, Wood says he plays the party "trump card": "I tell them how, at night, after clubbing they can spontaneously invite 20 or 30 friends round and keep on partying at home." Just one call, and room service will fill the champagne buckets. "If that doesn't convince them, I give up," says Wood. He only lets journalists into the building very rarely, he says, because discretion is another of the main sales arguments. However, Woods made an exception for Die Welt and is leading me through the opulent complex.

Only the most precious materials were used in the construction, such as 15 types of marble, as well as wood from an entire oak forest. In the underground garage, the parking spaces are twice as big as normal ones – adjusted to accommodate the Ferraris, Hummers and Bentleys. Other facilities included are a movie theater, a reception room that can hold up to 100 guests, a golf " virtual course" that simulates the world's top greens, a fitness studio, a 120-meter ozone pool, a spa, a sauna, a squash court, and a wine cellar. What residents pay to use the facilities depends on the size of their apartment. Per square meter, services charges in the complex amount to around 179 euros a year. For a five-room apartment, that works out to 163,000 euros annually.

However, it's unlikely that the shared facilities will be crowded any time soon, with sheiks and oligarchs getting in each other's way. True, 68 of the 86 flats have been sold one year after the complex opened, but only three of those were registered as a primary residence. "Our clients call the whole world home. They will spend winters at their ski chalet, summers on their yachts in Cannes or Sardinia, and the rest of the time in their homes in the Middle East, Russia or the United States," says estate agent Woods.

" Ghost town in the heart of London"

Because it is so empty, many British papers compare One Hyde Park to a ghost town in the heart of London. That doesn't however seem to bother its wealthy residents. In February 2012, the last remaining five-bedroom apartment was sold for 72 million euros.

For developer Project Grande, One Hyde Park is already a financial success. The joint venture of the British real estate firm CPC Group and the investment firm owned by Qatar's Prime Minister has already taken in 1.79 billion euros, which covers their entire investment.

The project was a risky one, however, and was considered a potential financial disaster. In 2005, Project Grande took out a 1.38 billion euro loan. The London real estate market was booming at the time, but during construction the financial crisis erupted and the real estate bubble burst. Project Grande reacted courageously by ordering a temporary halt in sales of the apartments in 2009 -- to sit the crisis out and wait for prices to climb again.

The risky decision turned out to be the right one: in the past couple of years, luxury real estate in London has been experiencing a surprising boom. Prices for houses and flats in the ritziest parts of town rose by 14.5% in 2011. The so-called "ultra-prime" market --real estate priced at 17.9 million euros and above– went up as much as 18.6%. The unexpected upturn is due primarily to the unrest in the Middle East, but also to the uncertainty about the future of the euro.

"The London real estate market is seen as a safe haven for investments," explains Wood. One family even bought four apartments at One Hyde Park, and chances are good they will make a profitable investment. A recent independent study by the London real estate firm Knight Frank on the possible increase in value of One Hyde Park showed that by 2016 the price per square meter could have risen by a whopping 40%.

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The Problem With Always Blaming Climate Change For Natural Disasters

Climate change is real, but a closer look at the science shows there are many factors that contribute to weather-related disasters. It is important to raise awareness about the long-term impact of global warming, but there's a risk in overstating its role in the latest floods or fires.

People on foot, on bikes, motorcycles, scooters and cars navigate through a flooded street during the day time.

Karachi - People wade through flood water after heavy rain in a southern Pakistani city

Xinhua / ZUMA
Axel Bojanowski


BERLIN — In September, thousands of people lost their lives when dams collapsed during flooding in Libya. Engineers had warned that the dams were structurally unsound.

Two years ago, dozens died in floods in western Germany, a region that had experienced a number of similar floods in earlier centuries, where thousands of houses had been built on the natural floodplain.

Last year saw more than 1,000 people lose their lives during monsoon floods in Pakistan. Studies showed that the impact of flooding in the region was exacerbated by the proximity of human settlements, the outdated river management system, high poverty rates and political instability in Pakistan.

There are many factors that contribute to weather-related disasters, but one dominates the headlines: climate change. That is because of so-called attribution studies, which are published very quickly after these disasters to highlight how human-caused climate change contributes to extreme weather events. After the flooding in Libya, German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung described climate change as a “serial offender," while the Tageszeitung wrote that “the climate crisis has exacerbated the extreme rainfall."

The World Weather Attribution initiative (WWA) has once again achieved its aim of using “real-time analysis” to draw attention to the issue: on its website, the institute says its goal is to “analyse and communicate the possible influence of climate change on extreme weather events." Frederike Otto, who works on attribution studies for the WWA, says these reports help to underscore the urgent need for climate action. They transform climate change from an “abstract threat into a concrete one."

In the immediate aftermath of a weather-related disaster, teams of researchers rush to put together attribution studies – “so that they are ready within the same news cycle," as the New York Times reported. However, these attribution studies do not meet normal scientific standards, as they are published without going through the peer-review process that would be undertaken before publication in a specialist scientific journal. And that creates problems.

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