Mike Hussey: ‘Design flair delivers value’
Mike Hussey, chief executive at Almacantar, on surviving the recession, negotiating cricket controversies and his love of One New Change
What schemes are you currently working on?
We are reviving a 1960s icon at Centre Point with Terence Conran and Rick Mather. Rafael Viñoly is creating a masterpiece at Marble Arch on a proposed redevelopment of the eponymous Marble Arch Tower, while the Lord’s Cricket Ground saga continues with Simon Allford at AHMM keeping a cool head among a maelstrom of MCC politicking.
How have the last few years been and how do you see your future?
As with many in the industry, considerable highs have followed considerable lows. We have not witnessed a haemorrhaging of the financial markets in our careers on this scale before now. We have emerged as a company with significant equity capital, some great assets in a robust central London sub-market and no legacy issues. You could say we are one of the lucky ones.
How has the recession affected your work?
Ironically, it has probably helped us. In difficult times, it is the well-funded players with a good track record who make better progress. Where life has been difficult for us, it has been far harder for others, which has created opportunities.
Do starchitects design better buildings and what do you want from architects?
Star or not, a badly briefed architect will produce a poor result. I like architects that understand my vision, respect my market knowledge and then demonstrate design flair that delivers a more valuable product.
How do you find your architects?
I have done years of research as it’s one of the more enjoyable parts of my job. I take advice and try to match the end product I have in my mind with the architect I believe can deliver it.
What are the most important forces shaping high-end development in London over the coming decade?
Sadly, they are mainly ‘dark’ forces. Development is rapidly becoming the catch-all for central and local government to tax, replenish their coffers and fund investments that they should be making. Combined with restricted lending criteria from the banks, we will see significant under-development. The force for good? We need more sustainable, smart-thinking refurbishments.
Which is your favourite project?
So far, One New Change [while at Land Securities]. It was a groundbreaking project that jumped all the major obstacles thrown in its path. It is now a modern landmark and a destination with a premium value.