13 November 2016 – DAWN
Climbing the monumental and steep black stone steps to reach the Impressionists’ Park in Clichy, with the River Seine behind you, is much the same thrilling experience as escalating one of the Maya pyramids in South America. But once you’re on the top and have regained your breath, what a delight it is to walk through the lawns, the wild plantations and along the beautiful, swan populated lakes.
The park is renowned for being a coveted site of the 19th century Impressionist and post-Impressionist artists like Georges Seurat, Paul Signac, Emile Bernard, Charles Angrand, and of course Vincent Van Gogh, who would spend days and days here in summertime, painting the views of the Seine from various angles.
They often got together in a charming old house with a red-tiled roof at the other end of the park, whence the city of Clichy begins. They had drinks and food together and talked interminably about their techniques when it rained outside. Modern visitors deliberately preferred to ignore the flat looking office building, a short distance behind this artistic, romantic guest house.
Everyday life’s hard realities had kept me away for a number of years from this enchanting walk, but when I returned to the Impressionists’ Park one sunny afternoon last week, I was surprised to see a frighteningly immense modern superstructure that has replaced the office building mentioned above.
Horizontal and slightly distanced steel bars of the gigantic edifice are of the same red colour as the roof of the old house, thus making it almost invisible. Behind this nearly transparent façade you see futuristic looking aluminum pipes and grills rising toward the sky and shining bright in the sun.
Puzzled, I asked other visitors what this strange complex was. The answers were multiple but hardly credible: gas storage, a nuclear reactor, an electric plant, etc.
More exigent investigation revealed the following details that the readers will most certainly find interesting:
Called DataCentre and belonging to the British group GlobalSwitch, the building is the biggest electronic information storage station in Europe. Inaugurated five years ago, it covers 15,000 sq metres of land (multiply it by six floors) at a cost of 200 million euros.
But what is GlobalSwitch? You can call it an electronic information wholesaler that has the storage and work space to rent to companies (minimum 100, maximum 4,000 square metres) and has among its regular customers commercial, technological and outsourcing giants such as IBM, Capgemini and Atos, etc.
In order to avoid any possible breakdowns, the Clichy DataCentre creates its own electricity with a power plant whose production capacity can equal the normal current consumption by a town of 120,000 inhabitants.
Though the Clichy base is the biggest following the principal one in London, GlobalSwitch has eight other similar electric information storage centres in Amsterdam, Frankfort, Madrid, Sidney and Singapore, occupying a combined space of 300,000 sq metres. These details inevitably lead you to the question: but who owns GlobalSwitch? The answer is surprising.
They are the two brothers David and Simon Reuben, both born in Bombay as it was then called, in the early 1940s. Following their initial schooling in India and later higher studies in Great Britain, they settled down in London and got involved in business.
Today they rank among the 60 wealthiest people in the world, according to the Forbes magazine. They’re also the richest British citizens jointly owning a fortune of more than 13 billion pounds.
You’re no doubt interested in finding out where the brothers now live. No longer in Mumbai and certainly not in London, with its cold and permanent rains. They have chosen instead for their permanent residence the principality of Monaco where the sun shines warmly throughout the year — and taxes are very low.