Hello. Welcome to my squash cave.

The urban surface of London is no longer interesting enough for the ultra-rich; they're thus building downward.

As the Times reported this past weeked:
    A Roman bath, a cinema for two dozen friends, even a subterranean tennis court—the super-rich are transforming their London homes, even if it means digging dozens of feet undergound.
The article goes on to describe how many of London's most financially advantaged residents, including oil tycoons and Indian steel magnates, have been "seeking permission to excavate under the garden... making space for a three-storey garage with car stacker, a swimming pool, a gym and a private home cinema." There are even "walk-in showers with waterproof television screens and glass walls that turn opaque with the press of a button, and cost £1,000 per square metre."

It's the urge toward subterranean architectural eccentricity, and it's transforming the very Earth beneath London.

[Images: London houses and their subterranean extensions; all photos via the Times].

For instance, we learn that "billionaire Russian oligarchs, private-equity traders and hedge-fund managers are engaged in a multimillion-pound game of one-upmanship as they vie with each other to dig ever bigger, wider and deeper extensions."

Indeed, "London’s super-rich are digging down and building outwards and upwards—and making use of the latest, priciest technology to do it."

Digging also helps them to avoid strict conservation laws, as the houses they've been extending into the Earth are usually listed structures: "Most houses now have more space below ground than above it, due to stringent planning regulations."

There are even "high-end builders," for whom business is booming, "who frequently dig down as far as 50ft to create new floors, basements and swimming pools, while the original house is propped up on giant steel pillars."

There's also quite a market for "adjustable-height swimming pool[s]" built far underground:
    At the flick of a button—because everything is remote-controlled—the bottom can be raised or lowered by a giant hydraulic jack, forming a deep swimming pool for the heavyweight millionaire or a toddler-friendly paddling pool for his offspring.
Which is nothing:
    One home in north London even has a bespoke chute covered in a special slippery paint, which enables the owner, who loves swimming first thing in the morning, but hates the fuss of dressing, to step out of bed and slide straight into the water a couple of storeys below.
Meanwhile, "a secretive hedge-fund tycoon" recently submitted a 168-page planning application within which he's requesting permission to build "a 16ft-deep swimming pool with high board"—among many other things—which, of course, will be underground.

"The super-rich are no longer demanding just luxury goods," we read; "they’re demanding a luxury lifestyle experience."

So while bored twentysomethings read Le Corbusier over and over again in roundtable discussions led by professors who would rather be elsewhere, the underworld of London is calling...

Read more at the Times.

(Thanks, Nicky! Earlier on BLDGBLOG: London Topological and Derinkuyu, or: the allure of the underground city).

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14 Comments:

Anonymous Jason! said...

Isn't this the same London that flooded over the summer and has tidal surge dams? I'd imagine that, no matter what they built down there, they'd all end up being pools.

August 24, 2007 3:51 PM  
Blogger max, i guess said...

you really have it out for le corbusier!

August 24, 2007 5:33 PM  
Anonymous Michael said...

Anyone else thinking Batcave?

Ok, having got that out of my system, my REAL first thought was to remember all the ruins London is built on top of. Imagine your underground Roman Villa was a real Roman Villa!

August 24, 2007 8:27 PM  
Anonymous Marilyn Terrell said...

I've always wanted a bespoke chute covered in special slippery paint so I can roll out of bed and into my private pool! Wallace and Gromit would approve.

August 25, 2007 6:35 AM  
Blogger Anni said...

That's great, instead of a pool, it could be a bath. 6am, the bed tips me into the bath. I've always wanted a robot to pick me up out of bed in the mornings and wash me so I don't have to bother waking up. That's what I would do if I was super rich, create a washing robot.....

August 27, 2007 2:06 PM  
Anonymous Sam said...

You can see a bedroom-to-swimming-pool chute in two films I know of, Juliet of the Spirits and Caddyshack. And there's a bed that tips Dean Martin into a bathtub in The Silencers.

Maybe these underground mansions will be like the cave-towns of Cappadocia one day....

August 28, 2007 9:32 PM  
Blogger Lundy said...

The air is so very bad in London, I suppose if I HAD to live there, I might prefer my recreation to be underground w/ some filtered air funneled down.
I get terrible headaches in London every time I go and the inside of my mouth turns sooty....you can feel it and see it when you blow your nose or brush your teeth.

August 28, 2007 10:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

juliet's next door neighbor had the chute to the pool, from bed, in fellini's "juliet of the spirits". luxurious for these jaded interest-mavens i'm sure, but somewhat tatty old-hat, i do say. much like the desires of a coddled whore.

September 02, 2007 10:43 PM  
Anonymous blufive said...

@Jason!:
Yes, parts of London are low-lying and vulnerable to flooding, but it's a big city, and nowhere near as flat as (e.g.) Copenhagen; there are areas at least 20-30m above sea/river level

September 16, 2007 3:26 PM  
Anonymous greg said...

I believe Wallace and Gromit live in a house sporting some of these automated fixtures.

September 18, 2007 12:23 AM  
Anonymous aquabot said...

I am just thinking of the intention which compels the builder to create this cave...I mean London doesn't seems to me that polluted...so why there's need to for all that...Is it just to create something different or is there any solid reasoning behind them....May be a nuclear view point...!!

October 01, 2007 3:52 AM  
Blogger Gar said...

>I am just thinking of the intention which compels the builder to create this cave...I mean London doesn't seems to me that polluted...so why there's need to for all that...Is it just to create something different or is there any solid reasoning behind them....May be a nuclear view point...!!

Mainly a matter of room and regulation. Basically, by law they can't build up and by reason of law or space they can't build sideways. So down is the only direction of they want to massively expand their mansion size.

October 14, 2007 6:38 PM  
Blogger crf said...

Someone should to these oligarchs' architects copies of lempriere's dictionary. That would be cool if it inspired them.

November 29, 2007 7:29 PM  
Anonymous aquabot cleaner said...

It would be pretty cool to jump from bed to the swimming pool.

May 29, 2008 7:20 PM  

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