“How Nick has embraced the changing face of a new world”

See link below to a lunch interview with the Derby Evening Telegraph where I talk about my career progression to date, from starting to work in Architectural Practice at the age of 16, some 16 years ago now! How time flies and what an amazing experience I’ve enjoyed so far…Derby Evening Telegraph article


Formula One. A fusion of Architecture and Motorsport.

This week has seen the launch of McLaren F1’s MP4-27 2012 race car, ahead of the new season commencement next month. I have been a lifelong F1 fan and have attended several Grand Prix’s around the world.image above: The Vodafone McLaren Mercedes MP4-27

Aside from the racing and the heavy influence of sponsorship and money, I think there is a very strong connection between Architecture and F1. Of all the teams on the grid, The McLaren team, established in 1966, stand out as promoting this link to the highest level. It seems clear to me that McLaren have the pursuit of leading design and technical excellence in their DNA. Whilst obviously the sport is about creating the fastest race package on the grid; car, team and drivers, McLaren take the ‘design’ ethos to another level in every aspect of their business operations, both within and outside of F1.

The McLaren technology centre, completed in 2003, is their global HQ in Woking, Surrey. It is a completely unique and very design led factory, design and research facility, designed by non-other than Foster + Partners. I think Foster’s language of design and architecture is a very obvious alignment to the ethos and brand of McLaren. The building is a truly stunning piece of architecture, with the very intelligent and considered integration of technology throughout. As well as the overall building form and façade design being somewhat unique, as with their F1 and road cars, the design focusses right into every little detail. The light fittings and venting systems are even bespoke designed for the building, again to complement the architecture and McLarens brand. Internally its surfaces and finishes are clean, understated and subtle, the focus is really on the effecient use and content of the building i.e. the cars and the operation/ activity. The building does not seek to compete with this.
image above: The McLaren Technology Centre, Woking, Surrey, UK

Looking beyond McLaren, the sports recent emergence in new racing circuits also integrates exemplary architecture and the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi, completed in 2009, is arguably the finest current example. It was designed as an ‘Arabian version of Monaco’ apparently, but I don’t necessarily see this connection myself. The centre piece for the completely man-made island complex is the Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi hotel, designed by American firm Asymptote Architecture. It’s the first and only hotel in world to be built over an F1 track.

“The building was conceived as an architectural landmark, embodying key influences and local and global inspirations ranging from the aesthetics and forms associated with speed and spectacle, to the artistry and geometries that form the basis of ancient Islamic art and craft traditions. Of architectural and engineering significance is the main feature of the hotelʼs design: a 217-meter expanse of sweeping, curvilinear glass and steel covering known as the Grid Shell: it features an LED lighting system incorporating video feeds that are transmitted over the 5,389 pivoting diamond-shaped colour changing LED panes.” (source: Wikipedia.org)image above: Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi hotel.

The recent blend of old and new circuits we now see in F1 adds another layer of attraction to the sport and its surroundings. So, maybe that’s why I like F1 so much – as well as the racing, there is a very real and strong connection to architecture and design.

Linking all this to Lewis and Hickey, beyond the obvious architectural association, I have a personal aspiration to see how we might make our architectural mark on the world of F1. I’m sure there must be an opportunity out there at some point in the future! Failing that we could always look at getting our branding on one of the cars (McLaren obviously), although  the seeming continual erosion of architects ‘value’/ fees might hinder that endevour! That said, I think this story demonstrates that architecture remains exciting, diverse and wide-reaching and has a very significant and permanent importance…and with that value.

Thinking of the 2012 season, due to commence in Australia on March 18th, who’s going to win the championship? It’s really too early to say. My hope is that the sport continues to diversify to ensure we get to watch the very best racing and also continue to see more amazing and unique architecture in/ around the sport. Clearly I have an allegiance to McLaren, especially as Lewis and Jenson are part of the team now, so therefore I naturally want them to win the Constructors title and Championship this year. Having experienced Silverstone, Spa, Monza and Indianapolis (2001)…which race should I target next? (Monaco is already earmarked for my next ‘big’ Birthday)…one to ponder some more…

student living, building models and enterprise zones

It’s been an interesting and insightful week for me and it would seem to be one worthy of starting my first Blog. I attended my inaugural Board meeting on Wednesday, since being promoted on the 1st January – you can see details of my new role here.

Lewis and Hickey have some large and exciting opportunities in the pipeline at present and business is slowly picking up which is encouraging. We recognise the need to be continually changing with the times and I hope to personally bring some fresh ideas and involvement in that process over the coming months.

One of our largest ‘sectors’ and one which I am very close to is Student Living, for Higher Education institutes. We are working with a number of Private Developers and Universities across the length and breadth of the UK on some significant projects at present. I hope to tell you more on these new projects in due course. We have delivered in excess of 10,000 student bedrooms over the last five or six years and have somewhere in the region of 5000+ beds in various stages of development at present. This is a strong sector to be in, but as with all investment related business, it still has its challenges. On Thursday morning I attended an NLA conference at the Building Centre in London. The venue is an Architects dream as in the reception area there is a huge scale model of central London, with every existing and proposed building on. It also includes the 2012 Olympic village (somewhere I’ve still not managed to get down and see yet).

image above. Looking from North West London due East. Regents Park on the left, Hyde Park on the right, our office is in the middle, just near Baker Street.

The Conference title was “London’s Student Resi Boom: Bucking the trend?” There still appears to be strong demand for further student living in London (and the regions), but London’s International market puts it on another level. Did you know that ‘premium’ student accommodation (a one bedroom flat) in central London will cost you £550 a week! That works out at nearly £30k a year – just for your accommodation. Add £9000 a year fees + general living expenses and a three year degree could be costing easily as much as £125,000.00 in London. Admittedly that’s at the upper end, but a degree outside of London will easily cost £50k+ now. There were some interesting thoughts on emerging trends in the very latest student accommodation schemes out there now. It was also great to see one of our projects and 3D visualisations shown as an example of ‘new ideas’ for student bedroom concepts. So, as I said earlier, the sector is strong…and it would appear that everyone wants a piece of the action! Busy times ahead we hope.

After a busy three day stint in London, I was glad to head back to Nottingham and today I attended the Invest in Nottingham lunch at the world famous Trent Bridge cricket ground. This was first used as a cricket ground in the 1830’s! Today, in its very contemporary form, it’s an impressive facility to be at – even though it was largely empty! Mark Chivers of Boots talked about the master plan proposals for the ‘D2N2’ Enterprise Zone in Nottingham – an exciting opportunity for the local economy and region in general. The intention is to create between 5000-10,000 new jobs through an integrated development which will bring together Housing, Business, Manufacturing, Logistics, Research and Development and more – all in collaboration with Central and Local Government (LEP), the University of Nottingham, Nottingham Trent University, BioCity (the birthplace of Ibuprofen) and multiple Private sector partners. Andrew Moore of East Midlands Trains also talked about progress on the Nottingham station redevelopment and the NET Phase two tram line. This is an important and much needed transportation hub for Nottingham, both locally and providing National and International connectivity.

So what can I conclude from this rather hectic week of activity? Well, 2012 seems to have started positively from a number of perspectives. Clearly it’s still going to be a challenging year in business, but let’s hope things are on the up…


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