All posts by nickrileyarchitect

Nick is a qualified Architect, with over 15 years experience. He has led projects up to the value of £50m. Nick is Board Director at Lewis and Hickey Ltd and is responsible for reporting on the Manchester office and Group Business Development. His main office base is Nottingham. Nick lives in Derby and is married with a young daughter. He enjoys playing golf (badly!) and follows Formula 1 and motorsport in general.

Twitter. It isn’t just about celebrities!

One of my previous blogs talks about my views on the value of social media in business. I am a big supporter of social media, especially LinkedIn and Twitter, to actively communicate with people and to raise our company profile. I am interested in people’s perspective on social media as a valid and meaningful marketing vehicle/ tool. Opinions are still divided between the ‘way things were‘ and the ‘way things are going‘. I am in no doubt – social media is the future.

I’ve had numerous discussions recently with colleagues, business acquaintances and friends about Twitter particularly. It seems there is a ‘perception’ that Twitter is “another Facebook”…”just a way of following celebrities”…”its not a real business tool”. No doubt, many people do use Twitter for purely social use or to connect with celebrities in TV, sport, business etc. However, celebrities use Twitter to raise their profile and to communicate with people who are interested in them. The same applies with companies! I think the business world is quickly realising that Twitter offers multiple benefits, some of these are;

  • You can send instant, concise and easy to read updates to ‘the world’ (or anyone that follows you at least!) about what your company is doing – therefore raising your company profile and your ‘search engine optimisation‘ exposure.
  • You can publish or access links to images/ webcams, blogs, news stories, websites, new publications…anything really! This is useful information on market/ sector trends and company activity.
  • You can see what any other people/ companies, that you choose, are doing at any point in time – including; clients (existing and targets), media, consultant partners, competitors, local and central Government, local/ national/ world business leaders, academic/ research bodies…the list in endless!

One person said to me recently that when researching a company before meeting them, it’s often more informative and relevant to look at their Twitter (and LinkedIn profile) than going to their website. This is probably true. In another conversation someone said to me “I don’t have time to mess around on Twitter at work” (maybe they don’t get it?) Another person I talked to just couldn’t seem to grasp the concept/ use. Then they went to a large business event and realised how many people (senior business leaders!) were tweeting while there – they suddenly appreciated the enormity and popularity of Twitter. I recently attended an Invest in Nottingham lunch event where they had a live Twitter feed on a large screen. This added an interesting dynamic and was another way of engaging people in the conversation. I was tweeting while there and got two immediate enquiries from it – one of which was about our International work.

Twitter is a limitless source of useful, easy to digest, information/ intelligence organised in a live timeline. We all work in increasingly busy schedules – I know mine is non-stop, both in terms of travel and meetings. Being able to ‘keep in touch’ on the move is critical to me.

My view remains consistent; Twitter is important, useful (in many ways!) and hugely relevant to business activity today.

Check us out @LewisandHickey (you will need a Twitter account!)

“I Love Manchester” – A City that leads by example.

#Love MCR” emerged last Summer, as a Facebook and Twitter campaign, to clean up and rebuild confidence in Manchester following the mindless and costly Riots which shook the UK and hit Manchester hard.  Love MCR has very quickly become the latest addition to Manchester’s strong brand message, local culture and the city’s identity. It’s also become a strong charity vehicle and is used to promote tourism and inward investment into Manchester’s thriving economy. The city has unfortunately experienced major disruption previously after the IRA bombing destroyed part of the Arndale shopping centre in 1996 . Perhaps this gave the city leaders a greater understanding of the need to respond positively – and very quickly.

I have worked in Manchester regularly for around 10 years. Since we established a new office in the city back in 2006, I have spent more and more time up here. In January I accepted a Board Director position at Lewis and Hickey. A key part of my role is to lead and direct the Manchester office, working with a great team – a challenge I embrace fully, not least of which because ‘I love Manchester‘ as a city and find it a great place to work.

Manchester never fails to impress. Among many things, it is a centre for international Football, Music and Television; the city is well known for being the home of ‘Coronation Street‘, a programme which celebrates life in the North West. Both of it’s Universities are highly ranked, drawing emerging talent to the city from the very start of adulthood. The University of Manchester founded the material Graphene in recent years which is set to be a hugely important material of the future. This is due to it being the thinnest and strongest material manufactured to date – the next carbon fibre. Perhaps something we will see in Formula One cars soon? These are just a number of day-to-day social, academic and economic references which influence Manchester’s rich culture and heritage.

image above: Graphene – an atomic-scale honeycomb lattice made of carbon atoms.

I believe Manchester is a city which leads the way and has been doing so for many decades. Its economy is rich and diverse;

Manchester was at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution in the 19th-century, and was a leading centre for manufacturing. The city’s economy is now largely service-based and, as of 2007, is the fastest growing in the UK, with inward investment second only to the capital. Manchester’s State of the City Report identifies financial and professional services, life science industries, creative, cultural and media, manufacturing and communications as major activities. The city was ranked in 2010 as the second-best place to do business in the UK and the twelfth best in Europe.” source:

In terms of property development and architecture, there is a similar compelling story of how the city has achieved great things. Tom Bloxham’s development company, Urban Splash, has played a major part in regenerating dilapidated parts of the city. One of their many high-profile schemes has been the re-design of the red-brick terraced House (similar to Coronation Street). One of their current schemes is the impressive Park Hill in Sheffield. In the core city centre is the Beetham organisations landmark Beetham/ Hilton Tower – the first major skyscraper to be built outside of London and amazingly it seems to stand proud, centrally, at the end of almost every major route into the city. It’s designed by the successful Manchester architect Ian Simpson who bought and lives in the top two storeys of the building, the highest living space in Britain – costing £3m at the time it was built in 2006. Not a bad price considering a well-known Manchester United football player is currently selling his much smaller, but still substantial, 3-storey apartment for £3.75m at present. This tower certainly adds to Manchester’s identity and is one of my favourite buildings. The bar on the 23rd floor, Cloud23, is worth a visit for superb views of the city and beyond. The Cooperative’s UK HQ has been based in Manchester for many years and they are currently developing a brand New Head office called NOMA 53 – one of the most sustainable commercial buildings in Europe and one of the first to be designed to BREEAM ‘Outstanding’. Moving out to Salford, the BBC made a major change to their organisation in recent years and moved a lot of it’s television production from London to a brand new development complex called MediaCity in Salford. Now home to many television programmes, including my two-year old daughters favourite channel; CBeebies and the infamous Justin Fletcher MBE (more commonly known as his character ‘Mr Tumble’).  One area of much discussion and media coverage at present is Manchester’s Enterprise Zone, called Airport City. This is a 4 million sq.ft. mixed-use development over 150 acres which will deliver office space, distribution, manufacturing, hotels, leisure and retail. Coming back into the city, ASK developments have contributed to a lot of regeneration and development in many parts of Greater Manchester and the city. Their latest project at First Street continues to expand – I saw the latest phase launched at MIPIM last month by Ken Knott and Ian Simpson – a video of this can be seen here. Our friends at ‘we are MI’ produced this promotional video and have worked with us on several commissions.

So what makes all this work? I think the key to Manchester’s success is the rich blend of old and new in the urban fabric of the city. It has restored and celebrates its vast Victorian Industrial past which is now juxtaposed by imaginative and unique contemporary architecture which demonstrates its new age.

Full credit to Manchester City Council and particularly Sir Howard Bernstein for working so hard to provide leadership and vision to the City, but also in engaging fully with many private sector partners to work collaboratively to realise an impressive collection of major and important developments.

We have a small, dynamic and progressive architecture team in Manchester. Our office is on Constance Street at the end of Deansgate and sits in the heart of Knott Mill (the architects quarter of the city). Our experience lies predominantly in Healthcare and Student Living work, but we have also been delivering Retail and Office projects over recent years. Opal Property Group, including Ocon Construction, have been, and continue to be, a major client to us who have been a huge support to our business. We work very much as a partnership. Our future looks promising with a number of recent project ‘wins’. We plan to build on this success by strengthening our position and profile in what is clearly a highly competitive local market, but one we know we can compete in. Manchester continues to demonstrate great potential as a city which leads the way and never stands still…could other regional cities learn a lot from this?

image above: our offices on Constance Street and the sign we have behind reception.

Manchester architecture office recruitment…

We are a ‘Top 100’ UK Architecture practice with over 140 staff working out of offices in Edinburgh, Guildford, London, Manchester and Nottingham in the UK. We also have international offices in Prague and Mumbai.

Our dynamic and progressive Manchester office has been established for over five years and is located in Knott Mill (the architect’s quarter of the city centre!). Our small but focussed team are committed to delivering the very best architectural services to our clients across the following sectors; Healthcare, Higher Education, Offices/ Commercial, Residential and Retail/ Banking.

Due to our growing workload we’re looking for the following candidates at present;

  • Experienced Healthcare Architects (must be post 5 years qualified)
  • Experienced Architectural and CAD Technicians (qualifications preferred)

If you’re interested in being part of our team, please send your comprehensive CV, including work examples, in printed copy only (no emails please) to; Nick Riley, Lewis and Hickey Ltd. Knott Mill, 7 Constance St, Manchester, M15 4JQ.

We’re expecting high demand so please make sure your CV stands out. We will contact you if we’d like to interview you. We apologise in advance that may not able to contact every applicant.

We look forward to hearing from you very soon…

Prestigious “Community Recognition” Award for our Youth Centre project.

This weeks blog features an L&H project which has just received a high-profile international award…

Lewis and Hickey recently attended the annual Civic Trust Awards ceremony in Edinburgh. We were delighted to accept a ‘Community Recognition Award‘ for our Westfield Folkhouse Project in Nottinghamshire. The project was also shortlisted for ‘The Selwyn Goldsmith Award for Universal Design‘.

From 306 international entries, 52 unique and inspiring projects were recognised at the Dinner. Awards were presented by Patron, Architect and TV presenter George Clarke and Civic Trust Awards Managing Director Malcolm Hankey.

About The Civic Trust Awards; Originally established in 1959, the CT Awards aim to recognise the very best in architecture, design, planning, landscape and public art. Awards are given to projects of the highest quality design. As one of the longest standing built environment awards schemes in Europe, they have given over 6,500 awards during the last 52 years.

Community Recognition Awards are given to projects that provide a positive social, cultural, environmental or economic benefit to the local community.

About the project: The original  c.1830’s built Grade II listed building has been lovingly restored and a contemporary new-build extension integrated, to deliver a new youth centre facility designed to meet the needs and aspirations of young people and promote their personal development. The building has been actively used as a Youth Centre since just after the second world war, but was in need of investment and adaption to reflect modern needs, not least of which improved accessibility for all. Nottinghamshire County Council, Mansfield District Council, myplace funders and the voluntary sector partners were fully engaged and involved through a series of consultations, including workshops, presentations and interviews. A young people’s management committee was specifically established to liaise and consult with user groups from the youth community regarding all aspects of the building including design features, activities and resources to ensure the centre focussed on social inclusivity.

Adrian Hollis, director of architecture, from our Nottingham office led the project from inception to completion. He said “This was a challenging project of two halves. It included the delicate and sensitive restoration of a listed building, juxtaposed by a contemporary and complementary new-build extension. Delivering a unique, complex project like this takes a huge amount of time and dedication to get right – we are very happy with the completed development and its an honour for us to be receiving recognition for it.”

  • For more information on on the ‘myplace’ use of the building and the story through its realisation, click here.
  • To see BBC news coverage, including a video, of the opening last year, click here.
  • To download a pdf copy of the Civic Trust Awards Brochure for 2012, click here.

‘Cautious optimism’ is the message from Mipim

image above. The Palais des Festivals – also known as the “Bunker” (as it has very few windows!)

Its been an intense week at Mipim, but as I start to reflect on what we can take home from it (apart from blisters on my feet and the need to sleep!) I can already conclude that its been very informative and worthwhile.

As with many companies I’m sure, we deliberated for some time about whether to attend Mipim this year. We took the view that as a major National firm of Architects with International offices as well, we should be there. Having not been to Mipim before personally, I wasn’t too sure what to expect. I did however go out there with a clear determination to generate as much value as possible from it – and I wasn’t alone in this endeavour. There was a strong presence from Architects there, as well as all other disciplines in Property, but Mipim is all about the Agents – Savills, DTZ, Colliers, CBRE, BNP Paribas, Drivers Jonas Deloitte, Jones Lang Lasalle etc.

The purpose of Mipim is to connect international investors with the property market. The Agents play the largest part in facilitating these connections. There really is no other event on this scale which brings together all disciplines within Property and covers a huge diversity of sectors, countries, cities and companies. An extensive conference programme has assessed current issues/ trends/ predictions for growth. The reason its held on the Cote d’Azur is because its accessible and, critically, attractive and familiar to the Investors. There is a unique informal vibe, although serious business is done. The sheer volume of people you can connect with and information you can gather would take months to do any other time and cost significantly more.

The main reasons we attended this year were to;

  • Raise our profile and be ‘seen’ there – to improve our exposure.
  • Collect market information which will directly inform our current business strategies.
  • Make new connections which we can follow-up on back in the UK.
  • Understand our ‘local’ UK markets more fully (see below).
  • Assess the International opportunities for our global offices.

image above. Caffe Roma – The social hub and meeting place of Mipim.

The power of Social Media played an important part of Mipim this year as Twitter, Linkedin, YouTube and Blogs were all buzzing with reports of activity here to connect it all back to the UK instantly. Property Week’s coverage of Mipim can be seen here. This includes news stories, blogs, video links and agency research reports published this week.

Here’s a brief round-up of the Cities we are close to in terms of our UK Offices, click on the links;

The City had a good stand presence at the conference and were voted ‘Best Large European City’ for foreign direct investment (fDi) by Financial Times fDi Magazine. They also launched their new “Edinburgh Investment Development prospectus” at Mipim…with a Whiskey tasting session of course! Their focus for inward investment is on four key zones – Edinburgh city centre, Edinburgh’s Waterfront, the expanding West Edinburgh airport quarter and the BioQuarter in South Edinburgh.

The London Pavillion was a hive of activity and included an impressive blend of Developers, Agents, Architects/ RIBA and Local Authorities. The events programme was run by the NLA and also the Estates Gazzette. Clearly the London market is huge and varied so its difficult to focus any specifics here, but the Links will provide a reference. The overall view of London remains strong. Inward international investment is continuing to drive various sectors, meaning London performs like no other UK city.

Image above. The London Pavillion

The Manchester team put on a seriously impressive display – without a doubt the best UK City representation there, outside of London. Clearly they invested a lot of money in this with their own Stand/ Lounge/ Terrace, a separate Bar (an actual pub – branded “Manchester”) and an Apartment for private meetings/ dinners. They had a large and diverse private sector team which seemed to work very well. The talks on ‘Fostering Innovation’ by Bruntwood/ Allied London and ‘The Business of Creative’ by Ask Developments/ Ian Simpson were particularly good – two subjects Manchester have a strong ability to lead the way in. All the stand events can be seen in video here. Manchester continue to look forward with experience, dynamism and creativity and have a lot of good things happening.

“Team Nottingham” had a busy time attending and hosting various events – including a well attended Drinks Reception. Both Tim Garratt and Richard Baker posted regular blog updates. Nottingham’s visibility was perhaps low-key compared to other cities, but they seemed to have an effective and focussed campaign and made news headlines several times, including; UK Regeneration revealed today the plans for Sandfield Village and Nottingham Enterprise Zone gets bigger.

So, that’s a very brief round-up of just some of my activity and perspective of Mipim 2012. Overall there seemed to be a fairly consistent view over the week that ‘cautious optimism’ sums up the mood in Property at the moment. Investors are increasingly acquisitive and keen to make progress in obtaining Planning Permissions. However the Banks and the European financial markets remain the problem when it comes to securing funding!All in all I return to the UK feeling better informed and better connected – I now need to ensure we pursue and convert some of the key opportunities I’ve discussed here too…

MIPIM. Day one…meeting Lord Rogers.

As I’m sure you’ll know already (!) L&H are flying both our UK and International flags in Cannes this week at the annual MIPIM property conferenceand what an event this is! I had no appreciation for the sheer scale of this – it’s huge. Today was about understanding the event to maximise value over the coming days, whilst also attending a couple of very informative conference sessions (more on those later).

BMI Baby put on an excellent flight (incl complementary breakfast reception) from East Midlands to Nice and the flight, although far from full, was dominated by Mipim attendees and “Team Nottingham” (part of Invest in Nottingham). Therefore the ‘networking’ kicked off at 7am and I’ve just got back to my hotel (I figured that 15 hours non-stop wasn’t a bad effort for the ‘warm-up’ day!) – Although I know the next 2 days are going to be intense.

We arrived at lunchtime and as I entered the main area I heard a furore of activity and noise – it was the celebrations for the arrival of the “Cycle to Cannes” participants – that looked hard work! At the front, leading the applause was Lord Richard Rogers – a career-long idol of mine and a truly inspirational contemporary Architect. I’ve studied many of his buildings and his 1999 Government endorsed publication ‘Towards and Urban Renaissance‘ was a core element of my University Dissertation. Great to finally meet him…

Amongst the extensive networking today, I attended two informative conference sessions;

At the Manchester Stand, Sir Howard Bernstein of Manchester City Council introduced Chris Ogsleby (Chief Exec of Bruntwood) and Mike Ingall (Chief Exec of Allied London) to talk about ‘Fostering Innovation’. Tom Bloxham MBE of Urban Splash was also there at the back – in his Trilby Hat. The talk was about Manchester’s Airport City Enterprise Zone and Allied London presented a new concept for an Office model. This is essentially a carefully serviced/ designed, technology focussed, Empty Box/ Shell – no fit out, at all. The intention being for end-users/ tenants to then build their own internal space which would meet their specific needs. This idea is borne out of the need to provide for companies who have increasingly diverse needs/ requirements for ‘space’ now and enabling an individual Brand to be integrated more fully. An interesting idea – although when put into the context of the next session I attended on Sustainability, it may become increasingly difficult to realise in time perhaps?

The second session was titled “Are we too broke for Sustainability” and featured Chris Grigg (CEO British Land). The focus was really on how the private investment market feels about sustainability today, especially in terms of investor understanding/ support and the effect on rental returns generated against ever increasing capital costs. The talk was mainly on Office and Retail sectors – where end users are diverse and demand different things in the ‘space’ they choose occupy (as above). Other than acknowledging that Legislative Governance is now forcing the agenda (and rightly so!), there seemed to be a view that Sustainability is on a “growing trend – which is most likely to continue to increase”. Therefore it has to be integrated more fully into future projects. Although there still seems to be a sense of reticence towards sustainability in these developer sectors specifically.

With the increased detail and definition of BREEAM 2011 requirements, I think there is a valid question of; how can ‘mixed-use’ developments be designed to meet a standard when end-users/ occupiers are not known during the design stage and can vary hugely in terms of services usage? Developers want to be as flexible as possible in terms of the offer to ensure their investment provides maximum diversity? They also want to avoid any risk of over-specifying buildings. A standard office space occupier is very different now to that of a high-end technology/ research company. How can this issue be reconciled? There doesn’t appear to be a simple answer…

The value of social media in business?

The Independent newspaper has today published their UK ‘Twitter 100‘ which ranks the top media and sports celebrities, business and political leaders on the social media platform. These are all high-profile individuals who like to talk and, more importantly, people like to listen to. Twitter is only six years old and has 100 million active users worldwide, seven million of them are in the UK. These figures reflect the enormity and popularity of social media generally.

Social media is now a wholly accepted part of day-to-day life and, in an increasingly busy and hectic world, it enables us to connect with friends and contacts (globally) quickly and easily to keep people in touch with what we’re doing and to spread news. It’s actually become part of how we interact as humans – albeit a lot of this ‘interaction’ is actually, in the first instance at least, indirect!? But this goes beyond ‘social’ or personal use – it’s now extends into business in a big and important way.

The most popular business social media platform is Linkedin “The Worlds largest professional network with 150 million+ members”. I use this everyday, either at my desk or on the move via my mobile/ iPad. I can gain a valuable insight as to who knows who, what people/ companies are doing and what topics and discussions are ‘trending’ in the various sectors we work in. This is realtime information on a constant feed. I also use it to understand target contacts/ companies more fully – you can learn a lot of useful information very quickly.

According to Sir Francis Brown “Knowledge is power“. He is also quoted to have said “By far the best proof is experience“. Both are relevant here.

You will probably know by now that I endorse social media, especially in business. My views on the ‘value’ of social media are continually growing in support, although it can sometimes be difficult to ‘measure’ this value in real terms. Its simple; the more you use it, the more value you will generate from it. For me Social Media is an important and necessary channel to engage with people and promote your individual/ business profile within your sector(s). I can categorically state that introductions to new clients and opportunities have been generated directly from social media – that is powerful.

Its addictive, its important and it does add value to business, especially in raising your profile and with developing new business relationships/ generating work.

Having said all that, the real work is in realising physical connections and then doing business. On that note; I’m off to mipim next Tuesday-Friday to do some global networking face-to-face…watch this space for more on that…

Click here to see my Linkedin profile.

Delivering Grand Designs on a smaller scale

In the news today; “Thierry Henry has lodged controversial plans to demolish his £5.9 million north London house”. Originally designed by Richard MacCormac, he plans to replace it with a larger property – incorporating a £250,000, 40ft high fish tank! This project, if it gets through Planning, would seem worthy of channel 4’s Grand Designs programme presented by interior designer Kevin McCloud.

One of our recent projects, equally unique in design terms, also attracted keen interest from the Grand Designs programme to feature it in their series. We were granted Planning Permission for ‘Badgers View Farm’, a unique one-off residence for a private client in the stunning Chilterns.

The site, situated near Chinnor in Oxfordshire, enjoys fantastic views of the Chiltern Valleys. We were asked to design a new 4000 sqft house with a contemporary appearance and a distinctive ‘wow’ factor both inside and out. The Client has a geological background and asked us to take inspiration from the physical formation of the landscape in the area. With this in mind, the design of the house draws from the Cretaceous chalk which underlies the whole of the Chilterns itself as well as vast areas of Southern England, with its most famous outcrop at the White Cliffs of Dover. In many places the chalk strata are uplifted, folded and buckled and it is precisely this that motivates the design in which blocks of rock are juxtaposed and impinge one another. The house is composed of white rendered blocks which link together over a traditional ‘knapped flint wall’. Large areas of glazing overlook the spectacular views and establish a physical connection between the building interior and the wider landscape itself.

image above. Ground floor layout (left) and First floor layout (right)

The Planning Permission document stated “The proposed development is considered to incorporate a high standard of design which will complement and respect the character and appearance of the surrounding area, with special regard to its location within the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.”

So whilst Lewis and Hickey are perhaps more commonly known for our larger scale commercial development experience, we also have a strong port-folio of experience in delivering smaller unique and ultra-contemporary buildings.

We are going to MIPIM. ‘THE’ global property conference.

MIPIM (Marché International des Professionnels d’Immobilier) is a trade show that its organisers describe as a “market for international property trade”. It takes place annually at the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès in Cannes, France.

Mipim attracts a wide and perhaps unique range of delegates for one single conference event…

  • 90 Countries (incl. UK, Benolux, France, USA, Sweden, Russian Federation, Denmark & Poland, Czech Republic, Germany & Austria, Switzerland and Italy)
  • 18,500+ Unique Participants
  • 170 Hotel Groups
  • 240 Corporate end-users
  • 4,000 Investor and financial institutions
  • 1,800 exhibiting companies
  • 17,500m2 exhibition space

There is an action packed conference programme as well as immense networking potential to provide an understanding of where the property market is now and where it might be going in the future – on a global scale! This event attracts the great and the good of the global Property sector and as an International business ourselves; we believe our presence is necessary and important in raising our profile for both UK and global business opportunities.Lewis and Hickey will be attending the annual MIPIM conference between 6th-9th March. We will be promoting our UK architecture offices in Edinburgh, Guildford, London, Nottingham and Manchester, as well as our global bases in the Czech Republic and India.

Our focus will be on supporting and engaging with some of the key City teams attending, including; (click on cities to find out more) London, Edinburgh, Nottingham, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and no doubt many more. We are also keen to meet with Property Developers, Investors, Construction firms and Property Agents. We believe we can play a pro-active part in the mechanism of making developments and regeneration move forward in these continuing challenging economic times.

We are very keen to meet with as many companies and teams/ consortia’s at the conference, so please get in contact and perhaps we can arrange to meet up. You can email Nick Riley on