MIPIM 2009, as it happened
The week’s blogging by our industry insiders at the international property fair
Experience the sun-soaked La Croisette promenade, ‘property’ bunker, glamorous yachts and late night parties with MIPIM veterans, virgins and voyeurs.
In my Pecha Kulcha I failed to explain what fish I used to describe the development story. The fish was a John Dory - it is a flat fish with a very large and ugly head, it has a black thumb print on both sides, said by folklore to have been made by St Peter’s fingers picking it up, as a consequence the fish is also known as San Pietro or St Peter’s Fish. It is rarely sold in England as it is considered too ugly for the English taste. It is without doubt the most delicious tasting flesh when grilled. Its initial ugliness and its divine taste seemed to be a perfect subject to describe the art of development. Do try it whenever you can, that is the fish rather than development.
Au revoir Cannes - you were better than I expected, perhaps because of the dampening effect of the crunch. There’s definitely a Ballardian, animal side to the whole thing.
Highlights? Spending some time with Deborah Saunt and Sadie Morgan, having about three key conversations with clients and finishing my Pecha Kucha at the Majestic Club. Like Roger Zog I also enjoyed an excellent steak Tartare.
I’m now looking forward to a view free of besuited men.
True star of MIPIM - James Bowdidge, secretary of The Tyburn Anglers Association and Pecha Kucha superstar (and founder of the Property Merchant Group)
Second night of Wordsearch’s Pecha Kucha has just finished. Some great performances - Paul Finch, Amanda Baillieu, Tom Bloxham. Kieran Long talks about graphics. By popular James Bowdidge reprises his presentation on the Tyburn Angling Society.
Have spent the last days networking, meeting and exchanging, planting the roots for long term relationships, hoping to expand into new sectors and securing potential leads for the future. So far I have business cards and meetings planned from Ben Addy (Moxon), Richard Conner (Piercy Conner), Sadie Morgan (DRMM), Ian Buxton (Price and Myers), Sean Griffiths (FAT), Marko Neskovic (Metropolitan Workshop), the various members of AJ, Paul Monaghan and Simon Allford (AHMM), Julian Hakes, Cassius Taylor (Wordsearch), Paul Finch and Roger Zogolovitch (unconnected), Mary Duggan (Duggan Morris Architects). Oh, and a Russian Billionaire wanting a Penthouse appartment.
MIPIM London stand wrapping up for the day - glorious sunshine. Richard Conner on the harbour terrace expounding the value - and plentiful joys - of dating sites. That he frequently uses. You can tell that everyone’s done the stuff they came for - or there’s nothing left to be done - and they’re letting it all go now.
PS Richard wants to make clear that he’s still single
Go to a seminar organised by the City of London where Tony Travers talks about the Square Mile in the context of the current economic situation. He finds it hard to be positive except to reassure every that recessions always do come to an end. ‘Things are so uncertain that we have to rely on a general sense of history.’ His killer comment was to compare the crisis to the Great Fire of London - ‘and see how quickly they rebuilt the city after that!’
Back to the London Stand to introduce another discussion, this time about housing with Sir Bob Kerslake of the HCA and, of course, Peter Bishop. Bishop talks of Boris’ desire to develop a ‘London vernacular’ . ‘Its not about style, its not about going back, its means a strong sense of place and an architecture that arises from those conditions.’
The final of the Rollapaluzza fixed bike challenge on the London Stand is won by Carl Carrington of Delap & Waller (M&E engineers); Barry ‘The Baton’ Hughes of HOK is a close second.
Clocked Ben Addy of Moxon Architects being moved on from the beach by the Gendarme on my way in in this morning. He seemed to be wearing the same clothes as his Pecha Kucha debut [including the event’s ‘Don’t Panic’ and ‘Stay Calm’ badges]. Clearly the strain of six minutes in front of the London Mafia had taken its toll leading himself to the beach…
It may be paranoia, but is the Manchester contingent receiving very little coverage in MIPIM News? The reason might be thanks to a monumental faux pas perpetrated by the Manchester team, in taking over the Crillon bar for private use. Until then, the Crillon had been the favourite haunt of the aging hacks after a long day churning out MIPIM News. A beer after work has never felt quite the same since; nor has their attitude towards the rainy city.
Pecha kucha night 001 at Wordsearch’s MIPIM Majestic club: Remarkably varied skits ranging from Deborah Saunt’s piece on (among other things) a royal pet cemetry to Roger Zogolovich’s triumphant finale on development/ construction/ life through the explanatory device of a red snapper
Show stealers (for me) were Robert Adam slyly (and often hilariously) appropriating the ‘modern’ lingo of so much archibabble bullshit to describe his own portfolio, Glen Howells frank and open ruminations on the fundamentals of how we build and James Bowdidge on angling in the River Tyburn. Brilliant.
Low point was my own sheer fear at presenting an otherwise straightforward portfolio sample to the great and the good - but hey its done now - time to get back on it.
Up to Mougins to RMJM’s reception where I spend a delightful half hour chatting to Frank Gehry. Frank it turns out is not in Cannes to lecture or to meet developers but to discuss the use of his CAD system, which he has developed for the complex forms of his own buildings, by other architects.
The sun is setting in beauiful purple streaks across the bay as the world’s top architects board a very ordinary coach outside one Casino to head for the AR design awards at another casino. A metaphor? Deborah Saunt (DSDHA) and Sadie Morgan (drmm), together a powerful statement about the new generation of British architects. The few boats in the bay look like they spent the winter on the drive in the outskirts of Croydon. A sharp contrast with last year’s super yachts.
Kieran Long (via Twitter)
Still alcohol-free after five hours at MIPIM something’s wrong. Now heading to London stand with FAT Sean Griffiths.
Just gave the nod to Frank Gehry in the bunker - surrounded by his entourage. He seemed to be heading in the direction of Budapest. No idea why.
After comparing notes on this evening’s Majestic Club Pecha Kucha session I realise everyone else’s presentations are very funny, while mine is about the crash and the role of infrastructure - there’s not a single light moment.
Paul Finch advises a re-write with jokes, but Sunand Prasad says we are all ready for seriousness these days and I should just go ahead and tell it straight. I think I’ll go with the New Austerity approach. I can’t think of anything funny about Crossrail anyway.
Zaha didn’t make it to the Wallpaper* dinner, Wolf Prix did but seemed a bit under the weather.
Sunand Prasad told us to change the spec of heating a couple of degrees and you save 25 per cent of your energy costs. Simon Allford reminded us that architectural surgery - making more with less - becomes the creative challenge of the times.
Development needs two clear conditions - the idea of the building to attract the tenants and occupiers and the investors who believe that this will be the case. The investors are absent from the show as are their advisors, they are watching the turf and telling themselves to wait for the right time in the cycle.
Sore heads were remedied by fried eggs and thick coffee. The first planned event, Boris waxing lyrical about London’s Olympic legacy. A tour de force of cliches and anecdotes. I am convinced. Second event: ‘Lean, Green and Mean’. Some very useful data. Off to a meeting (pre-arranged via the Mipim website) now.
Their is a wierdness to this years MIPIM; Cities display crassly designed schemes from a long lost, cheap money, greed driven era; developers appear in their not yet repossessed over-the-top motors (the yachts are mostly gone though); and most exhibitors’ displays and events have a strong hair shirt theme. The place is basically full of consultants hopelessly begging for work. Last night’s hot ticket was the much reduced HCA dinner where senior regenerators sought solutions to the current meltdown. Jane Todd (Nottingham CC CEO) asked the killer question - ‘Why don’t HCA yet have the flexibility to do the job?’ The answer seemed to be ‘watch this space’ but despite the confidence people have in the HCA team, there was a feeling that each day without radical action was a day closer to an imminent oblivion for deprived communities.
Boris Johnson’s clarion call gave us the sense of the show - ‘triumph of hope over experience’ - or as the world outside might say ‘over eternity’.Property is optimistic - projects need belief - the MIPIM show this year is that little Island of belief becalmed on the beach at Cannes - our collective minds and experience - our love of the project will be the key for survival.
The mayor backs London - he is right - London is a big, diverse economy and while the bankers find there way out of their mess, London is still there and still buzzing. Urban life goes on.The gossip is the how and who. £4BN of London’s public money investment in new housing is on the table.
Here’s to an end of the empty shells of our thinking - the development industry must wake up to reality - building for use - building loosely - questioning everything.
An eventful opening to the exposition for us. We begin with respect and reverence for the event…wise words ring in my ear from Paul Finch ..”do not blow it on the first night. Do not peak too early”. 1am in the morning, I think I am peaking. We have however already met various interesting people, exchanged business cards, memos and email addresses…let the new commissions flood forth.
Arrived today, not as hectic as previous years and, really, rather better for that. The usual madcap megalomania from Russian and Middle Eastern cities and states. I’m sure I’ve seen the same bizarre never-to-be-built iconic nonsense for two years running. There never was an economy for them, now there definitely isn’t. Perhaps its also the same scantily dressed, bored-looking girls on the Russian stands too. In the London tent a jolly speech from Boris being, well, jolly and hoping that London will be the centre of the recovery.
Just an hour or so off the train, but the surreal nature of the whole thing is evident - the hotel lobbies are full of hookers and the French navy has a gunboat moored in the bay. It must be what Havana was like before the revolution, but with more rotund Englishmen.
Now in the opening party. Weird doesn’t start to describe it. It has all the trappings of what could be a fantastic and very glamourous gig. But then a whole load of stuff - most particularly the funny little trade fair badges round everyones neck - reminds you that it’s not the party it wants to be. Plus - more odd military connections - looks like the crew of the French destroyer thing have all been given passes. There’s a throng of military bods in the middle of the room. With blasting garage music and blokes in grey suits with name badges. Not offensive you understand. Just very very odd.
First day of my first ever MIPIM was very interesting - motivational speech from the Mayor and some brilliant little debates on the London stand. Otherwise load of frankly terrifying schemes presented all over the place. My experience of the Milan Furniture Fair left a peculiar sensation of ennui due to the sheer quantity of stuff on show. This is the same but hugely magnified - when you consider the scale of the objects being presented. And these objects have very little consideration for what really matters in architecture. Frightening. However the London stand and some of the Scandinavian stuff does make you feel there is some hope. The quality of stuff there - no matter that it is presented in a workman like way - is of a different tone to that shown elsewhere. Thank goodness.
One no show meeting while waiting in the wind on the London Terrace - downsizing talk of day behind the scenes, along with how to re-think what we (every company) does in this market. Seems lighthearted despite this…I don’t think there’s work hear but maybe some angles to explore where you hadn’t thought to look. No quick fixes - which I’m sure a lot of people need at the moment! If only you could enjoy exploring them without the salary bill cloud on the horizon. Off to dinner with Finch and Allford. Currently with Colin Thompson of DTZ New York. Discussion has moved onto playlists for the Ear To The Ground Manchester Hang The DJ Party on Thursday.
Next up is the London Development Agency reception where once again Boris gives an upbeat speech - to many of the same people. He therefore decides to do it in fluent French, but again reinforces that prices are cheaper in London than other European cities. Must go - I’m late for the Wallpaper dinner where Zaha and Wolf Prix are talking.
Today is all sport and Boris. The Croissette at 7.30am was awash with lycra-clad runners and Plowman Craven cyclists. The C2C riders arrived from London with panda eyes and chiselled calves to be met and charmed by Boris and his television outriders.
Aedas had cleverly sponsored static bike racing - todays high point. After cycling 1,500km to Cannes, one of the riders then did 500m in 22 seconds - only three seconds off the British record - in flip flops! According to Boris at tonight’s packed London reception Big Macs are cheaper in London than anywhere on the planet. Eat well at home!
Boris Johnson (via Twitter)
Just arrived in Cannes. Sunny but a MIPIM marathon ahead. 6 speeches and hundreds of people to meet.
Rory Olcayto (via Twitter)
MIPIM gossip: Frank Gehry dining with RMJM’s Paul Stallan on Thursday. Just the two of them? ;-)
Despite the gloomy talk about fewer people at MIPIM this year things seemed quite lively at the London stand - which has very sensibly been directed at selling London’s skills to the world. This is sensible because most of the people exhibiting are consultants of various colours who can only sell so much to each other.
I started the day with a lively discussion about London’s towns and Boris’s strategy to support the outer boroughs, ably chaired by Paul Finch together with two councillors from Hammersmith and Ealing and Andrew Tindsley from BDP.
Got into town late last night - with very little idea as to what to expect - save the legendary reputation for imbibing and the requirement for stamina. Seems quiet to me, however.
Before coming I canvassed around some MIPIM sages as to what to expect. The most common piece of advice being to not expect much sleep but when you do try and make sure it is in a hotel in town and not somewhere out in the sticks - like Nice, for example.
So I booked a hotel in town at colossal expense.
Arriving after midnight I was disappointed to discover that my hotel ‘room’ was more a rapidly converted store cupboard immediately behind the reception desk. The bed only just fits into the room and I only just fit onto the bed (diagonally). All this for the price of a fortnight in a spa hotel in the foothills of the Himalayas. Or perhaps a room in Cannes in those weeks when there aren’t schmucks like us with little clue prepared to cough up over the odds.
Monday night this year at MIPIM seems a quiet affair, the atmosphere a bit scratchy, the world is here and bar room questions springing from everybody’s lips is the perennial ‘but will it happen’.
This can be asked of any project.
Developers are an easy target - we enthuse, we believe and we do all we can to promote.
We try to make it happen; we are all jockeys riding the race in our backer’s colours.
Mr Sellar has gone more than the extra mile to make the Shard happen, me for one wants to stand and cheer him on.
Building is difficult, beset with every obstacle that a civilised and critical society can throw.
Developers make them individual, they make them personal and they have the chance of making them great.
We are in the eye of the storm, the waves are rushing around us, but in my view the prospect for property has never been better. The fundamentals come to the fore and that means quality - build the best and it will be worth the best.
This is the time for something new.
What we need right now is a bit less scratch and a bit more belief - lets hear it for Irvine - Go Shard Go.
Packing for a late night flight to Cannes. Desperately trying to get together all the presentations for our Pecha Kucha speakers who will be appearing at the MIPIM Majestic Club. The club is the MIPIM architects’ favourite late night watering hole - it starts at 10.30am and goes on until 2.30am. The Pecha Kucha - wher performers are given 20 slides and 20 seconds per slide to talk about something interesting and entertaining - will include Tom Bloxham, Paul Finch, Peter Bishop, Roger Zogolovitch, Deborah Saunt, Kieran Long and a couple of dozen others. It should be amazing - as long as I get people’s presentations in advance. There’s no time for technical hitches.
Also liaising with Boris’ press office - he’s going to welcome the Cycle to Cannes cyclists when they arrive at MIPIM. ITN sense a photo opportunity and are sending a camera crew.
I’m really fed up not to be cycling down with the peloton. I’ve done it for the last three years and this year they’ve had the best weather yet - with a following wind they’ve been rattling along at 27kmph.
Word is that one of the town’s leading flat agencies has only rented 50 per cent of the apartments it did last MIPIM. Despite the downturn, Reed Midem is still expecting to empty 1,200 bottles of champagne at the opening night cocktail party.
The final estimates of attendees is in the 18 - 20,000 range and it’s still an absolute mess of traffic outside the Palais as organisers attempt to get all the exhibits installed by tonight.
Krasnodar region is here again in some weight, however the Freddie Mercury lookalike we all enjoyed so much on their posters of previous years has been designed out, shame. The French obsession with washing streets is so endearing - if only they had not decided to jetwash the one outside my window at 5am this morning.
Architecture on display includes Gensler’s 632m Shanghai Tower, plus a new tallest building for Cape Town - Old Mutual’s Portside building, which will be 37 storeys and have commanding views of Table Mountain.
There has been copious use of the word “sustainable”
Rory Olcayto (via Twitter)
Sitting on a 757 (a big plane) to Nice and it’s pretty empty. Will MIPIM be empty too?
The wonders of travel - arriving in Paris a touch early, a quick taxi ride to the Gare de L’est and a nonchalant stroll onto this inspiring station. Snatching a quick glance at the station clock - the hands seductively stuck at 12 noon, climbing the stairs to the Train Bleu became a chance not to miss. Ushered into this dining room of such promise, with banquettes stretched out across the whole of the station facade, being ushered to sit and to gaze on the murals beckoning the promise of the South of France just juices the taste buds.
For me finding my way easily to the great french dish of steak tartare mixed before me (see picture below) and going for the super ‘fort’ with just the smallest half bottle of Cotes De Rhone reminded me how glad I was that I was here and lunching.
With the good sense of my companion Martin Stockley engineer we stopped with the coffee gourmand, coffee and a little pudding and left with a bill of £50 per head, arriving in perfect time for the train to Nice departing platform 15 at 1.45pm.
Such opportunities need to be grabbed when they come across your path, hesitate and all is lost - it provided economy and beauty all in the same package. It is a wonderful beginning for the days to come. My positive recommendation for the train down.
It’s scorching hot in Cannes but all the chatter is about how much attendances are down. Everyone has a view from the agents letting the apartments (there are still vacancies) to the taxi drivers. Officially its supposed to be 30 per cent down but the local gossip goes as far as 65 per cent. There were plenty of empty restaurant tables on Sunday night but that’s not uncommon and the usual small groups of middle-aged men were in evidence as the real estate colonisation of Cannes began.
The AJ bloggers:
Ben Addy, founder of Moxon Architects and MIPIM virgin
Robert Adam is the founder of Robert Adam Architects and another seasoned MIPIM vet. The self-proclaimed ‘Classicist in Cannes’
Chris Brown is a MIPIM veteran and chief executive of developer Igloo Regeneration
Richard Conner is the co-founder of Piercy Conner - a seven-time MIPIM vet
MIPIM Mole is an anonymous source within the MIPIM machine
Peter Murray is chairman of architectural marketers Wordsearch, founder of London Architecture Biennale and ex-London-to-Cannes cyclist
Joe Morris, founder of Duggan Morris Architects and another MIPIM first timer
Rory Olcayto is features editor of The Architects’ Journal.
Roger Zogolovitch is chairman of Solidspace developers and former Z of CZWG