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MIPIM is good for business, but the investment focus distorts UK architecture

There is a flipside to the seemingly endless development planned for the capital, much of it agreed at MIPIM: stupid house prices

Are you in Cannes for the MIPIM property fair? Are you here, with the many thousands of developers, quantity surveyors, lawyers, financiers, architects and journalists who flock to the Cote d’Azur each year in search of a deal, or for a crucial client meeting, or to gather up a few good contacts at the very least? Organisers say 20,000 delegates flocked to the Croisette this year. That’s up on 2013 – by 600 or so – which makes that a growth of about 3 per cent on last year. Not bad.

MIPIM is without doubt very good for business. It is especially good for London, where most of the companies which attend are based (although the AJ’s travelling companions on the train to Cannes were bridging loan experts from Belfast). And while the Manchester stand is usually the best-looking (in 2008 it was designed by Ben ‘Hacienda’ Kelly) and The Manchester bar, a takeover of Le Crillon a few streets back from the beach front, pretty much serves as AJ headquarters (as Cannes stalwart Paul Finch calls it), the truth is that MIPIM, now seeing greater representation from other parts of the UK, is all about London.

The truth is that MIPIM is all about London

There is of course a flipside to the seemingly endless development planned for the capital, much of it agreed at MIPIM: stupid house prices. For example, a council house in Peckham, billed at £400,000 a few weeks ago with one estate agent, was badged ‘under offer’ before reappearing a few days later with a new agent (cough, Foxtons, cough) and a new price tag of £575,000 – a 43.75 per cent rise on an already inflated figure. (We’re talking about a terrace home of about 80m², with a tiny garden and a roof in need of replacement.)

Okay, sure, it’s not MIPIM’s fault: prices like that are partly about supply – there aren’t enough new homes being built to keep prices reasonable. We all know that. (Hint to developers: build some houses ordinary people can afford). But it’s also because London’s land, its bricks and its mortar, are thought of as an investment opportunity and little else. MIPIM has certainly played a role in presenting this rather limited perspective. The AJ’s role – and yours too, as thinkers, civic leaders, and designers with an eye on the future – is to provide equally compelling alternatives.

Readers' comments (1)

  • The mismatch between 'London values' and national values was brought home to me last week when it was reported that the long disused Brompton Road underground station on the Piccadilly line had been sold for £53 million, while down in Somerset the 'fixing' of the flooding problems, including a barrage to protect Bridgwater, would cost the almost unimaginable sum of £100 million. £53 million pumped into the London economy (from the Ukraine economy) while it's anyone's guess whether there'll be a 'business case' for pumping money into Somerset. Enjoy MIPIM.

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