Tag Archives: Mipim

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…

Measurable results from MIPIM…

Every February/ March, the property world talks lots about MIPIM. It’s a big annual property conference in Cannes, I’ve blogged a number of times about it. People who haven’t been or don’t understand MIPIM, can see it as an extravagance and there are always questions about what you get from it. The honest answer is, you don’t come back with an order book full of projects. It’s about making connections. Some of those connections take time and the right opportunity to develop to the next stage.


The last week seems to have been a strong one in terms of developing MIPIM connections. I have;

– Set up a meeting between two developers I met at MIPIM this year. Whilst it’s early days, this introduction could prove very valuable.

– I’ve made contact with a high profile architect I had dinner with at MIPIM in 2013 and we’re discussing a potential collaboration for a high-rise development in London we’re involved with.

– I’ve set up a meeting with a high profile developer to discuss a Student Living brand of their residential development business.

These are all results of meetings I would not have had, or not been able to set up easily, back in the UK. To start a conversation or email with “We met at MIPIM…” always opens the door in my experience. So I’m reminded again that MIPIM is important and can add real value to doing business in property.

In October there will be the first MIPIM UK event. I’m in two minds as to whether the MIPIM of Cannes can be recreated in London. I have strong doubts as to whether it will work. I’m sure people will go, but it simply can’t be the same as Cannes and I question whether people will generate connections in the same way.

Art and Architecture at Nott: Just a City

Last week I blogged about my visit to see the ArcelorMittal Orbit tower at the Olympic park in London, click here to see it. The point I made in this was that Art and Architecture cannot become one entity in the form of a building.

I maintain that view when it comes to physical buildings, but my perspective was broadened on this last night when I visited the ‘Nott: Just a City‘ exhibition in The Pod, Nottingham. The Nottingham and Derby Society of Architects (NDSA) have run this event for a few years now and they invite local practices and students alike to showcase their work. This creates a great fusion of design thinking and practice achievements.

photo 1(1)Last night Elliott Wood hosted an excellent ‘British’ themed drinks event at the exhibition, with all drinks and food being from local/ British sources. It was great to catch up with some friends in the Nottingham property community, especially as I don’t ‘live’ in the city now in terms of my work base.

In addition to some design inspiration and stimulating conversations (especially with my good friend John McCay on ‘infographics’) I took two key things away with me last night;

– Art and Architecture definitely DOES exist – in the illustrated form. There were some excellent examples of creative design and different presentation techniques, including some physical models which I always like to see.

– Nottingham really IS a ‘Talented’ city (which was the message the city took to MIPIM last month). The engagement between industries and Nottingham’s two superb Universities is so important – and last night was a great showcase of this.

photo 1-2If you get a chance, call into the NDSA Nott: Just a City exhibition before the 19th April. It’s worth a visit, especially to see Elliott Woods parabolic structure…

Thanks to Gary Elliott, Stephen King and the team at Elliott Wood. A really good and different event.

Mind the Gap: London vs The Rest

In the days before the recession, now a distant memory, London seemed to be an integrated part of England/ UK in property terms. It’s always performed extremely well, but comparisons were still made with ‘the regions’, i.e. other UK cities. More recently London has continued to grow at a phenomenal pace – throughout the recession, whereas the regions have all but stopped in relation to investment/ property development. Thankfully the regional cities are waking up again now and the future is certainly looking brighter for the UK as a whole. However, the spectrum between London vs The Rest is probably the widest it’s ever been.

At MIPIM recently and also in the press, particularly in relation to the strong recovery we are seeing in the residential sector, comparisons are still made between London and the regions. This continual comparison is starting to frustrate me as I think the relevance of this has diminished. I work in both the regional cities and London on a weekly basis so I’d like to think I can see this from both perspectives here. Londoners are only really focused on London – so too are international investors. The regional cities seem to take the view that London is over heating and that the regions should get ‘their share’ of investment/ property development activity. Why?

Evan Davis recently presented an insightful two-part programme on the BBC which considered this very issue. This was a good review and was very much focused on investment/ real estate comparisons. Looking back at history he illustrated that at the peak of the Industrial Revolution, the middle of England; cities like Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham and Derby were significantly higher than the rest of the UK, including London, in economic terms.

London connectionsToday, London performs substantially better than the rest of the UK. To give a sense of this, Residential values in Central London are peaking at levels of £3000ft2 – or in extreme cases up to £6000ft2. Whereas the regional average is around £350ft2. The average house price is the UK is £180k and it’s size is typically between 800-1000ft2. Therefore a house of this size in London would probably fetch around £2.7m. Values have risen in the last year at a UK average of 9.5%, whereas as London has increased by 18%.

London is unique in the context of the UK, now more than ever. It’s a global city; THE global city in fact. It attracts substantial international investment, but why is it so unique? There are many reasons, here’s a few;

– It sits geographically and timezone wise ‘in the middle’ of the global money markets.
– It is politically stable/ safe.
– It has the most universally used language.
– It’s offers a wide range of lifestyle/ cultural diversity.
– It has a strong sporting offer.
– It’s has a wealth of English heritage/ history.
– It’s incredibly well connected on both local and global levels.
– It has a strong and diverse concentration of people/ demand.
– It attracts the best talent in most sectors, both domestically and globally.
– It has a substantial number of educational institutions.

London is an incredible success story and I have no doubt it will continue to perform well for the foreseeable future.

But, it my view the UK regional cities should not try and compete with London. They can’t. There is definitely a lot to learn and observe in terms of what London has done well, but regional cities need to focus on defining themselves on a more domestic level. Connectivity into/ out of London is clearly really important for the regions.

MIPIM saw most regional cities flying banners with the usual message; ‘We’re open for business’, but is that enough? Accepting that London is now a firmly established global city, perhaps there is a strong argument to suggest that a National/ Domestic capital city should be identified. Would this help promote the wider UK? In my view Manchester is the only contender and is already the UK’s second city. If Manchester were to be named the national capital, would this give middle England some stature?

British Suburban Utopia?Most cities have pretty poor quality office provision today, with a lot of 1960’s stock – most of which is being pushed down the Permitted Development route to convert them to Residential. Will these be sustainable? (in commercial and environmental terms – and in the context of the city fabric), or are we just creating a bigger problem for the future? These buildings should probably be demolished and replaced. I accept that this is challenging financially, but it’s probably one of the biggest nuts to crack. In terms of Residential dwellings, getting people back into the cities IS important. And not just that, providing a strong mix of dwellings to suit all ages is important – along with facilities like well performing schools (this being a big influencer in house purchases/ values). The UK, again linking back to the Industrial Revolution, has a mentality/ habit of the wealth pushing out to the green areas. This seems less of an issue in mainland Europe. City living is far more common out there. Can the UK accept that City Living works? It should certainly be affordable which references another issue with younger people trying to enter the market.

This is a complex and never ending subject. My point today is two-fold;

– London is distinctly separate from UK regional cities and people need to accept that.
– The regional cities need to find a way to make their cities work and provide the ingredients that London boasts; City living for all and the very best commercial offer. The latter should not, in my view, be concentrated on Local Enterprise Zones if these are outside of the city centres. This will make the social/ economic problems worse by making the commercial centres ‘suburban’.

My MIPIM 2014

It’s been another busy and exhausting, but enjoyable and productive, trip to Cannes for me. This is my third consecutive year at MIPIM and I’d say this trip has been my most successful to date in terms of outcomes. The really important bit now is the follow-up’s. The atmosphere has been better as well; London is booming and there are strong signs of a return to property investment and development in the regions going forward.

Beyond the many meetings and getting some great new contacts/ leads/ intel and opportunities, some of my defining highlights this week for me have included;

– Getting a selfie with Boris Johnson! – Not sure who the Photo-bomber was!? You can see the MIPIM keynote address by the Mayor of London by clicking here.
– The excellent Shedmasters lunch up in the hills.
– Dinner with friends of Innes England and Cricket legend Derek Randall.
– Meeting footballer, turned Property Developer, Gary Neville on the Manchester stand.
– Lunch with Willmott Dixon and Louise Brooke-Smith, who will be appointed global President of RICS later this year.
– Getting some good Twitter coverage in terms of retweets.
– Seeing the Invest in Nottingham video to promote the City. It’s edgy, fresh and dynamic – click here to see it
– Finding the ‘New London’ App recently launched by the NLA and Estates Gazette. It’s an interactive map of all London boroughs and provides key information on all major developments – a very useful tool to have. You can download it by clicking here.

One of the most interesting points I picked up this week was from Tom Bloxham of Urban Splash. I spoke to him a few days ago and asked “what does the future hold for urban living?” He explained that during the Industrial Revolution the factories dominated the cities and that peoples class/ wealth determined how far out of the city they could live. Today, thanks to cities like Manchester, people are living in the city centres again. This has wide ranging economic benefits. For city living to be sustainable long term, a greater degree of diversity is required to provide housing for ALL ages/ needs, this should include older people and of course young families. A key component missing in most regional City centres these days is schools. If these can be provided, then the diversity and economy of our cities will continue to grow.

Here’s a few photos from this year…






What makes MIPIM unique?

It’s hard to believe that another year has passed by since I was last in Cannes for MIPIM; The international property conference. It’s a big event attracting around 25,000 delegates from around the world. The theme of course is Property Development and people from every area of the sector come along to network and seek deals and opportunities. High profile attendees this year include; Boris Johnson, The Candy brothers and ex-Manchester United player Gary Neville, who will be talking about his development company.

mipim25Two very common questions I often get asked…

What is so special about MIPIM?
Why go to Cannes to meet people from the UK?

If you’ve not been, it’s perhaps easy to imagine that this is a jolly. It’s certainly set in a stunning location where the sun is shining and there is a lot of money floating around; expensive hotels and restaurants, big boats and fast cars. But, being here in my third year now, I can tell you that it’s hard work. People are here for a good reason; to do business. I have over 30 appointments in my diary over the next 3 days. I will be up and out by around 7am and back again after midnight. It’s a marathon. My intention is simple; to return with as many contacts and leads as possible.

The entire MIPIM event is unique. The environment sets the scene for a very different mindset. People, generally representing the top of their respective organisations, are away from their day-to-day working routines. There are no boardroom formalities and people aren’t thinking about a hundred other things. Generally people are here to focus on the job in hand. Therefore you can connect with people so much more easily – and they are much more receptive to talking. This is what makes MIPIM special.

I’m representing my new company WCEC this year, in only my second week with the company! We have some great experience and current projects to talk about this week. Our company has been built up through our long standing partnerships with Morrisons and Asda. This has enabled us to build a strong port-folio of town centre regeneration, supermarkets, convenience stores, mixed-use regeneration and also logistics/ industrial, to name just a few. Beyond that our recent work has included hotels, leisure and residential.

Residential has been a big growth area for the business in recent years. Our teams are currently working on a number of high-profile urban developments in London and the South East. Our signature project at present is Royal Wharf in the Docklands, the first phase of which is worth £250m. We have also built up a team delivering Permitted Development projects for Office to Residential conversions.

Delivering all of the above, is a focused and diverse team of around 120 staff offering a broad range of group services. A key one at present being BIM (Building Information Modelling). We have been actively involved in BIM for around 8 years now – there’s probably not that many architects who can say that! Until last week my knowledge of BIM was pretty limited. It strikes me that there is a lot of ‘talk’ about BIM, but a lot of people probably don’t understand it and are certainly not well placed to effectively deliver it. I am in no doubt; BIM is the future to delivering buildings and running them for their lifetime. WCEC are delivering projects for all our clients in BIM, using Revit and a number of other programmes. We believe we have developed a real expertise in BIM, so we have a separate consultancy which provides services to the wider construction sector. This is in big demand at present.

Whilst I’m over here, in between my meetings, I’ll be seeking an overview of the property markets. What’s the forecast? Is London really over heating? Are the regions coming back? I’ll be spending time at the London, Manchester, Birmingham, Sheffield and Leeds stands. I’ll also be seeing my good friends and acquaintances at “Team Talented Nottingham” to learn more about Nottingham and the East Midlands plans. You can see the brand new Invest in Nottingham website here. They also have a MIPIM specific website here.

Royal WharfI’ll be blogging a bit more through the week, as and when I get a few moments…?


The next chapter. WCEC Architects

If you’ve been following my blog recently you’ll know by now that I’ve now left Lewis and Hickey. The last week has been emotional, but enjoyable, saying thank you and goodbye to lots of friends. I’ve had some really positive feedback from all sorts of people, both within and outside of the business, about my departure from L&H. Thank you sincerely for your kind sentiments and best wishes.

The future looks exciting for me. I’m certainly looking forward to getting started now at WCEC. I’ll be based in the Chesterfield office where around a hundred staff work from. That means they we are one of the largest practices in the East Midlands! Although, being honest, a lot of people don’t know of WCEC. This is something the business is already aware of. Part of my role will be to help develop the profile of the company to a wider audience/ client base. I believe I’ve already done this to some extent at L&H, so hopefully I can add value through my experience. I’ll also be working from the London office which is developing a strong client base and workload in the South East. My time in London has increased over the last couple of years due to clients being based there, so a physical presence there will be good for me and the company.

You can expect to hear lots about my work and the business on this little blog which has created a good following in the last two years.

First of all I will be heading over to MIPIM next week in Cannes! I’ve attended for the previous two years and according to Reed Midem I’m now a “Silver” delegate?! I’ll be flying the flag for WCEC – and no doubt catching up with a few known faces whilst out there too. My diary is already looking rather full, but don’t hesitate to get in touch with me if you’re going…

west hamstead square

Image above | West Hamstead Square, London.

Who are WCEC?…

Celebrating over 40 years as Commercial Architects, WCEC has developed a reputation for design and technical excellence which puts us at the forefront of commercial architecture in the UK.

The practice specialises in town centre urban regeneration schemes, and is currently working on multi-million pound schemes with some of the biggest developers in the industry to transform the fortunes of towns up and down the country.

Renowned for many years as the UK’s leading designers of out of town retail developments, we have diversified over the years and now deliver innovative and sustainable town centre schemes which not only encompass retail, but also leisure, residential, hotels, offices and business parks.

We pride ourselves in creating innovative design that meets client aspirations and is delivered both on time and to budget.  Our success is evidenced by our long term relationships with clients such as retail giants ASDA and Morrisons and year on year increases in turnover, profitability and workload.

The business is wholly owned and operated by three partners; Alex Wall, Ashley Turner and James Kemp.

What sectors are we active in?…

Mixed-use | Residential | Retail | Commercial | Leisure

What service offerings do we have?…

WCEC offer a complete range of in-house Architectural services which includes; design, master-planning, interior design, technical production and visualisations/ animations.

The business has already invested heavily in BIM in recent years and is using Revit extensively in a number of work sectors. There is still a lot of debate in the industry about BIM, but it really is moving fast now and a lot of companies are getting on board. We also offer separate BIM consultancy services to the wider construction sector and that is seeing some strong demand at present as other firms get to grips with the new generation.

Our sustainability services include; BREEAM accredited professionals, Code for Sustainable Homes assessors and membership of the Green Register of Construction Professionals. This enables us to combine our commercial background with specialist informed understanding to offer holistically sustainable design.

One development  I’m likely to be have some level of involvement in is Royal Wharf in the Docklands. It’s a project with Ballymore and is described as ‘A new waterside village for London’. This scheme, located adjacent to the Thames Barrier, was in Property Week last Friday.

Royal wharf_LRImage above | Royal Wharf, London.

So that’s a brief introduction to WCEC. As I said; you’ll hear more going forward. But please don’t hesitate to contact us should you wish to know more about our business…


Turning a corner…

A few people have commented recently that my blog has gone quiet, so I thought I’d give a brief update on what I’ve been rather consumed in recently…

We have been very busy over the last couple of months. From our own experience, and from talking to people in the Construction sector generally, it seems that there is a tangible increase in confidence. We are currently seeing a surge of opportunities which we’re involved in. I genuinely hope that this is a strong indication of a more sustained outlook after five somewhat challenging years!

During September we completed a number of student living developments taking our total count of bedrooms designed and delivered to over 13,000! In Birmingham we completed Phase 2 of our Aston Student Village project, on-campus at Aston University with Bam Construction.  Down in Colchester we completed the first phase of the Meadows project which is a new part of an expanding campus at the University of Essex, this was a PPP deal with ULiving (a consortium between Bouygues Development , Bouygues Construction and Derwent FM). Up in Scotland we have also completed phase 1 of a campus redevelopment for the University of Stirling with Graham Construction. We have very recently been bidding for another substantial student living scheme in the North West. We are up against some high profile competition on this scheme. Meanwhile our Crown Place project for the University of Liverpool is continuing at pace for a completion next summer. You can view this project live via the project webcam, click here.

Led by our London office we have recently secured a Planning Approval for a large mixed-use development at Redhill station in Surrey (see image below). Our client is Solum Regeneration (a JV between Network Rail and Kier Investments). The project includes 150 residential apartments, a food store, a multi-storey car park and a new train station entrance building. We are also working on a number of other high-end residential projects in central London.

Redhill1Our Retail team have been very busy recently with a number of clients, including our longest standing client; M&S. This is our 91st year working with M&S! Up in Northwich we are nearing completion on a new-build Waitrose Store with H2O and Russells Construction. This project is part of a mixed-use Marina development.

Our Si Yuan building at the University of Nottingham recently picked up a prestigious award at the ‘Insider East Midlands Property Dinner’.

Judges Special AwardSituated on the university’s Jubilee Campus, the project was shortlisted in a number of categories at the region’s annual awards.  Announcing the award, judges said

“We felt this iconic development was worthy of a special mention. Repeatedly shortlisted, it scored so highly in so many categories – development, regeneration, sustainability design – that it was felt that this remarkable building and all those involved in it merited real praise and recognition. An unprecedented building deserved an unprecedented award.”

We worked with the University of Nottingham, GF Tomlinson, Gleeds and a number of other consultants on this scheme. We won this project through a design competition and I’ve still got one of my original sketches for this scheme on my desk.

Our team in Mumbai remain busy and have been bidding on a number of new projects, including a major convention centre. In September our team moved into new offices which are more centrally located with strong transport connections. Our international links are expanding with a number of active links with companies in Europe, America, Russia, Australia and the Middle East. We will be attending Mipim again next spring in Cannes. I will be part of the Invest in Nottingham delegation for 2014. I’ve supporting this great team of people for the last two years whilst over at Mipim, but I’m really pleased to be a formal part of the team next year.

So positive signs are definitely out there and I hope we can continue to build on our recent successes and emerging opportunities…