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MIPIM 2010: It's all about the cities

Despite what you may have heard, MIPIM is not a property exhibition, it’s a city exhibition says Peter Murray

The most interesting bits of the international property fair in Cannes are the stands of the great metropoli – Madrid, Barcelona, Paris, Manchester, Frankfurt, Berlin, Turin, Riga, Dubai, Oslo etc etc  - it’s here you can find what these cities are planning in the long term as well as the developers who are delivering stuff now.

It’s a format, originated by the London Stand in the early 90s, has been emulated by many cities since.  It makes for a much more interesting event and people are keen to talk and network.  

Architects who haven’t been before are always asking me if it’s worth going. I’ve been to everyone except for the first in 1989 and have always found it worthwhile. It depends on the sort of work you do – clearly it’s not much good if you want to do schools or healthcare  -  but generally the answer is yes.

There are plenty of UK cities, Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) and developers to speak to but more interesting, particularly in the present climate are the overseas cities. 

This is the first downturn in which it has been possible for smaller practices to work on the international stage without major disruption and cost. When Max Fry and Jane Drew went to work in Chandigarh in the ‘50s, they had to close up their practice in London.

Today they’d be able to get there in under a day for meetings and deliver all the drawings on their FTP server. The difficulty of getting work overseas is knowing where to look. The benefit of going to MIPIM is that you can visit twenty cities in a day to suss out the prospects – something that would cost a fortune and take a year if you want to the places themselves.

This year the London Stand is working with RIBA London to give the cheapest possible access to MIPIM for smaller practices, it provides a base overlooking the beach, between Paris and Madrid, where you can have meetings, although with the weather this winter I wouldn’t bank on any sunbathing.

Cannes can be wet and windy in March.

In 2006 sub zero temperatures gripped France and the water bottles of the Cycle to Cannes charity riders froze solid as they pedalled through Dijon. This year’s riders, who include ex RIBA President Sunand Prasad, Christophe Egret and Argent MD Roger Madelin, are praying that the current cold snap moves away to be replaced by strong northerly winds which will blow from behind for the duration  1500km ride.

In three weeks time, 85 cyclists will set out from Greenwich Park and arrive at the Palais de Festivals six days later to be greeted by the Cycling Mayor Boris Johnson. The riders provide a good cross section of the sort of people you’ll find at MIPIM, architects, developers, consultants and lawyers and there are a third fewer than there were in 2008.

If this reduction is matched by MIPIM itself then it has major benefits – people are less hectic, they have more time to talk and you can get down to business in a way that was often impossible when the place was packed to the gunnels.

Peter Murray is the chairman of New London Architecture and the London Festival of Architecture and is a MIPIM veteran



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