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MIPIM 2014: Why do we still go to a property fair in Cannes?

Leading industry voices tell the AJ why they are going to MIPIM - or why they decided to stay at home

Roger Zogolovitch, creative director, Solidspace: GOING
‘MIPIM is 20,000 plus professionals from the world of development. For all architects wherever you are in your career, it is an approachable, serendipitous gathering that demonstrates the size and scale of the that community. To succeed you need to interact, to gain confidence and to overcome that always difficult moment of pitching for work.

‘Whether you hone those skills in a bar at 3.00am in the morning, by making a better joke, by having the elevator pitch ready when you spy Mr Big coming straight at you down the Croisette -  over the week you will enjoy many of these moments that will give you insight.

”Remember the famous words ‘ABC -  always be closing’ –  Happy hunting.’

Richard Hyams, director of Astudio: GOING
‘MIPIM is a brilliant forum at which to understand exactly what’s going on in the market. It essentially provides a distilled appreciation of the current issues and opportunities for us. Add in the potential to meet with a vast array of people - funders, developers, local authorities who we wouldn’t get to meet back in the UK, and the benefits of attending quickly become clear.

“There seemed to be a real optimism in Cannes last year, which will only increase next week as the recent, more positive economic headwinds mingle with the warm air of the Mediterranean. In the years I’ve been going to MIPIM, I’ve realised the most important thing is to know exactly why you’re going, what you’re looking to achieve, and who you want to meet to try to facilitate that.

The most important thing is to know exactly why you’re going

‘It’s always interesting how varied the responses are when I ask people “whether they’ve had a good MIPIM”. Quite often, there seems to be a disconnect between people’s personal agenda and their business agenda. Whilst lounging around the Croisette and drinking champagne until the early hours definitely still appeals, the perceived benefits of a casual, ad hoc strategy quickly evaporate, like the residual hangover, once you’ve returned to London.’

Peter Murray, chairman of New London Architecture: GOING
‘This will be the good news MIPIM. The weather forecast suggests sunny days, so lunch on the beach is a must - but don’t forget the sun cream [enjoy the lobster on your plate not your face]. The big news for London is that it is now way bigger than it was before the Lehman collapse.

‘In 2007 there were just 227 companies represented on the London stand. Tthis year there will be 316. There is an unprecedented waiting list of 60 riders keen to take up any unwanted places on Cycle to Cannes. The  Wordsearch MIPIM Carlton Club will be on Wednesday and Thursday - this year, and that hasn’t happened for seven years. There will be a Pecha Kucha on the second night  starting at 11.00pm starring Mayor of Bristol George Ferguson, Roger Zogolovitch and Jamie von Klemperer, among others.

‘This year MIPIM celebrates its 25th anniversary so expect plenty of gallic chest-beating. The bad news is that things might get a bit tricky on the Eastern front - there are some 280 companies from the Russian Federation facing up to 22 from the Ukraine - if they manage to make it. Watch out for post-Sochi gay rights activists on the Croisette.’

 

Robin Monotti Graziadei of Robin Monotti Architects: NOT GOING
‘I went last year and found it interesting, but it didn’t lead to any new work. It is a very expensive trip when you include the entry ticket and accommodation.  I enjoyed the AR Future Projects Award, and to see what other countries are building.

It is justifiable to go to Cannes to develop relationships that can be fostered in London

‘Overall it remains a fair where developers are looking for investors for schemes where architects have already been appointed. The London pavilion has a more widespread series of lectures that are more relevant to architects, and the Carlton Club is a good networking event. The question remains whether it is justifiable to go to Cannes to develop relationships that can be fostered in London. Ultimately it depends on the PR budget of a practice.

Steve Featherstone of Llewelyn Davies: RETURNING
‘Like many others, 2008 represented our last visit to MIPIM. It was the start of a difficult time for architectural practices during which MIPIM was no longer viable. Six years on, we’re up to 20+ staff and we’ve undergone a significant change, becoming part of a group of practices that also includes Sidell Gibson and HLM, all of which operate independently.  We’ll all be in Cannes for the week.
‘We’re attending due to the international nature and variety of our current work, which includes projects in the UK, Nigeria, India and Algeria. We want to engage with clients and consultants – particularly agents, project managers and contractors – that serve our core sectors of healthcare, aviation and mixed-use / masterplanning.  We expect more than a quarter of our work to be overseas and so it’s an important platform to find opportunities.

Design is bound to move up the agenda once again

‘We also think the time is right for architects to fly the flag for the profession. As the economic context improves, design is bound to move up the agenda once again.  So MIPIM should be interesting this year as we’re on the cusp of a more stable market. 

Tom Holbrook of 5th Studio: NOT GOING
‘I haven’t been for years because it’s horrible. It’s a bit of a sad occasion I think. Architects desperate to meet people with work; it’s a bit craven. It’s a sad spectacle of architects looking for friends. The last time I went was in 2009 because I was working, so that felt better. But I can’t imagine going if you aren’t making a presentation or something; just wondering round helplessly. You end up cutting your wrists.

‘But yes, given something to do, or a project to defend, I would probably go as there is a real concentration of industry people in a receptive mood. It is heavy on fat blokes in bad suits.’  

Matt Yeoman of Buckley Gray Yeoman: GOING
‘I first went to MIPIM in March 2005. Back then architects were regarded as “bottom feeders”. Nibbling scraps of contacts from the discarded dinners of the great predators above them. It was a large ocean and we were small fish. Or so I thought.  
As it turned out, the ocean was relatively small, it was just that the sharks and killer whales towards the top were so bloated that they dominated the horizon, blocking out the sunlight.
The recession put an end to all that excess and since 2009, MIPIM has regained its focus and has become a far more useful and enjoyable event. Yes, the yachts are still there, along with the odd member of the serious fraud squad, but in general terms the event is far more down to earth than reports would lead you to believe.

Don’t go to MIPIM in the hope of winning work from a Russian oligarch

‘For architects, the opportunities are now significant. Design is more widely appreciated and the ability to create (and sell) ‘vision’ is a skill much in demand.
But don’t go to MIPIM in the hope that you will receive a commission from a Russian oligarch to design a new city in the Republic of Tatarstan. Those opportunities, along with accompanying ‘models’, disappeared some time ago. However, what you will find is the unique opportunity to connect with key clients and industry movers and shakers in a relaxed and unprecedented way.’

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