Tag Archives: Bubble House

The ‘bubble’ of MIPIM

My blogs been quiet for a while. I’ve been really busy with various new projects, both in our Residential and Student Living sectors. Our Student Living port-folio is growing rapidly now with live projects in London and Oxford at present. Other schemes in Coventry, Sheffield, Brighton and Nottingham are in the pipeline and well developed. I’ve also been developing a new strategy in terms of our ‘New Business’ work (Marketing and Business Development). It’s been a pretty positive journey over the last twelve months.

Last week I was over in Cannes for the annual MIPIM conference. This was my fourth consecutive year and I was joined by Board Director Jason Ainsworth, who hadn’t been before.

It’s been interesting seeing the atmosphere change at MIPIM over recent years. This year was electric; there is no doubt that the property market is booming in the UK and confidence is high at present. Of the 22,000 delegates this year, over 5000 were from the UK.

Palais Des Festivals Cannes

We attended a wide range of events and meetings across the week. From these we have a lot of new contacts and opportunities to pursue. We met some great new people, and saw many known contacts too which was equally useful in terms of catching up. Business is all about people and relationships. MIPIM is the perfect platform to meet people and develop relationships that last.

People who haven’t been to MIPIM are still quick to mock it with comments like; “did you enjoy your week in the sun…while we were all working“. I guess you’ll never really understand it unless you experience it.

MIPIM is a whole week of constant networking. That involves eating nice food and drinking coffee, wine and champagne in the sun. The location and environment creates a unique, relaxed atmosphere where people talk more openly than they would do in the relative formality of day-to-day business.

Where else could you meet with Central Government representatives, chief executives of local authorities and Housing Associations, CEO’s/ Chairs of major Development and Construction companies, leading sector property agents, the full spectrum of property related consultants and many more people in between. MIPIM is totally unique.

NLA London ModelThe new NLA London model was unveiled in the London Pavilion.

But MIPIM is intense and tiring. It takes a certain sort of person to be able to do it and you need to be thinking all the time about how you and your company can relate to the people and opportunities you are discussing. You also have to remember a lot and make sure you record what’s been discussed to follow up on. You need to be on top of your game; inside knowledge and contacts are what you need to have.

It also involves being on your feet all week! I have a Jawbone activity tracker. Last week I walked 55 miles and had an average of 5 hours sleep each night. That’s no holiday!

In terms of investment, is it worth it? In my view; Yes. If you host a table of 10 at a property dinner in the UK, you’d pay £1500-2000, for around 3-4 hours of networking. MIPIM is a full week of this and significantly cheaper to be at by comparison. I was invited to a breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday + other events and meetings in between.

The end of last week was a real highlight for me as we were invited to a private BBQ at Tom Bloxham’s Maison Bulle (Bubble House) in the mountains.

A few years ago I met Tom Bloxham from Urban Splash at MIPIM. I knew any business relationship with Tom would take a while to develop and I’d need to do something significant to attract any attention from him. In the second half of 2014 I had various meetings with Tom and introduced him to some of our developer and investor clients who I thought could work with Urban Splash. This has been a really positive process, with a unique and very real opportunity currently emerging from this dialogue. It’s been good to get to know Tom and gain an insight into the incredible Urban Splash story (which Tom tells very well!).

Back to the house; Antii Lovag was the creator the the Bubble House concept; it’s a series of interconnecting concrete dome structures, with circular punctures creating doors and windows. Other than the floor, there are very few flat surfaces in the house. The house also fuses with the rugged rocky landscape. Large rocks puncture the house internally and externally, so the ultra modern smooth domes wrap around the surface of the mountain and contrast with the rough texture of the rocks, both are the same colour. Water is present throughout too; internally the main dome has a water feature/ pool with bridges over it. Externally a large infinity swimming pool and an even larger cold water lake surround the house.

One of Lovag’s more commonly known houses was built for the French Fashion designer Pierre Cardin (see image below), but Toms house is where is all began and indeed where Lovag lived (in a small domed annex house in the grounds) until he passed away last year.

Maison Bulle Teoule-sur-Mer

Toms house in France is shrouded in secrecy. Very few photos are in the public domain and Tom rightly wants to keep it that way (so no photos here I’m afraid). The house was incomplete when Tom bought it. Over the years he has completed the house, working with Lovag, but also making his own mark from his Urban Splash experiences. The building seems to stay true to the spirit of the original designs, but has a contemporary twist in places. It also has an Urban Splash feel. It’s a hugely successful synergy.

The house was an incredible experience. I’ve never seen anything like it and it inspired me as an Architect. It’s is proof that anything is possible (or “Tout est Possible” as Lovag would say).

So back to Blighty. It was cold and slightly foggy as I headed back into London today. There are lots of follow-up’s to do now from last week – and that is the really important bit in terms of getting real value from MIPIM.

The MIPIM bubble has burst for another year, but the work from it will continue for sometime…

Abandoned Places

Happy New Year. My little blog site has been quiet for a while so I thought it was time I got back on it! The end of this month will mark the second anniversary of my blog and I’ve had over 30,000 views now so thanks for calling in here. People still mention the blog when I see them, so I figure its worthwhile carrying on and sharing my thoughts on the world, with whoever might be interested (or not).

So back to the title; Abandoned Places…Whilst on my travels one thing I’ve been mulling over for a little while is how many abandoned buildings there must be in the world; the ones which had a story and some importance one day, but for unforeseen reasons have subsequently been left derelict. My thoughts were once again prompted yesterday when I had a meeting in an office overlooking the defunct Waterloo International Station in London. Designed by Nicholas Grimshaw and built for a cool £120m in 1993, it was vacated in 2007 and hasn’t really been used since. Surely a building of this scale was intended to last longer than 14 years! Although in that time it saw over 80m people pass through it.

Waterloo Detroit in the USA is perhaps well known for its Industrial past, followed by a radical abandonment which saw its population more than half to 700,000, from 1.8m in the 1950’s. Home of the American motor car and Motown music, this City went from boom to bust in a big way. There are many derelict buildings and areas of Detroit, including housing, skyscrapers, factories, warehouses and much more. One building stands out though as its been regarded as both the “tallest railway station in the world” when built, and “the world’s largest abandoned railway station” more recently. It is Michigan Central Station. Last used as an active station 1988.

Michigan Central StationMoving away from train stations, one City in the Ukraine had seen rapid expansion during the 1970’s, before being completely and immediately abandoned in April 1986. Pripyat was the nearest City to the Chernobyl disaster. The City had been developed to house the many workers and families of the Nuclear Power plant. The City contains 160 apartment blocks, infrastructure, schools, a wide range of leisure and recreation facilities and everything else you’d expect to see for a place of over 50,000 inhabitants. Today, Pripyat has an odd existence. It stands completely still in time – as if frozen almost. Life does exist there, but not people. Trees and vegetation have claimed this empty City. An odd site.

PripyatAgain in the 1970’s some Taiwanese developers built the Sanzhi UFO houses as a holiday resort. These were targeted at US Military officers who would buy the things. The project ran out of money before it was fully completed, but they remain today. They remind me a little of Tom Bloxham’s Bubble House in the South of France (originally built for fashion designed Pierre Cardin). Maybe Urban Splash should redevelop these UFO houses!

Sanzhi UFO housesEver heard of the sleepy Wiltshire village of Copehill Down? Its a complete village, but nobody has ever lived there – and you wouldn’t want to either! Its a secure Ministry of Defence training facility, built in the late 1980’s as a mock German village. In more recent years the village has been expanded using cargo containers to resemble a Shanty town. This is to train combat troops before deployment to Afghanistan.

Copehill DownYou’ll easily recognise the world famous structure in the photo below, but does the context look a bit different? The City of Tianducheng in China was part of a trend to replicate great cities from around the world. The Parisian City was planned and constructed in 2007 to house over 100,000 inhabitants, however current estimates are that around 2000 people live there.

Tianducheng CHINAStaying in China, the Dongguan New South China Mall is the “second largest shopping centre in the world” (after the Dubai Mall). It was developed by an ‘instant noodle billionaire’ (now that’s a claim!) Its total floor area is 9.6 million ft2 and it can accommodate 2350 shops! However, following its construction in 2005, the entire Mall is now empty. And we thought the UK High Street had problems.

Dongguan October 2010My final building has been “in construction” for 27 years now, with the most recent effort to complete the building in 2012. It still isn’t finished. The Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang, Korea stands at 105 storeys high (that’s 24m taller than the Shard) and has over 3000 bedrooms! Its huge. The building stood, for over a decade, as just an exposed concrete structure (see photo on the left). In recent years its been clad in glass, but the interiors are incomplete. Definitely not the most inspiring tall building I’ve seen on my travels; the Burj Khalifa is far more impressive (however much of that is empty too!)

RYUGYONG HOTELSo there you go; a random, eclectic and perhaps unique collection of buildings and places from around the world which, have been abandoned for different reasons and frozen in time.