‘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 nick.riley@lewishickey.com

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…

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