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Expensive Flats

The race is on. Who has bought the most expensive apartment in London? Well, according to the (London) Times of Wednesday it is Sheikh Hamad bin Jassin bin Jabr al-Thani, the foreign minister of Qatar. One interesting feature of the transaction is that the building is two years from completion. This means no one has actually seen it. Still, Sheikh Hamad plunked down 100 million pounds--sorry my computer doesn't a pound sign--for the penthouse pad.

The architect for this housing project is Richard Rogers, who went into history as the designer, along with Renzo Piano, of the Pompidou Center in Paris. This is the building which, after 20-odd years, had to be completely renovated at a cost--if I remember correctly- of more than $100 million. Maybe that's reasonable, at least in comparison to what the sheikh paid for his mere 20,000 square foot abode. I suspect that Rogers is not providing Hamad with a building that, like the Pompidou, put its insides out. The Pompidou may have brought a new looseness to the design of art palaces. But it sure ruined a charming neighborhood. (As you can tell, I do not like this museum. I wrote about it in 1977.) Only yesterday, Rogers was awarded the Pritzker Prize for Architecture, an honor that has been bestowed on crystallizers of new visions about the use of space and also on less worthy but very theatrical practitioners of the trade. To tell you the truth, from the photograph in the Times, Roger's Hyde Park design reminds me of a typical condo building on York Avenue in the upper East Side of Manhattan.

Anyway, back to London real estate. There could be reasonable suspicion that the government of Qatar is actually planing to relocate to London. After all, the Emir of the statelet already has a house in the neighborhood. But it only cost 37.4 pounds, although he is laying out an addition mil (in pounds, that is) for renovations. With two of the prime principals in government having commodious lodging in London, maybe the entire government could move here. Then the percentage of the population that is indigenous would drop to maybe 20 percent.