Michael Ingall: 'We always chose architects through competition'
Michael Ingall, chief executive at developer Allied London, on his love of architecture competitions and why we don’t need new towns
What kind of schemes are you currently working on?
We will not develop anything we wouldn’t live, work, sleep or eat in ourselves. We’re working with Denton Corker Marshall in Savile Row and Ian Simpson on No1 Spinningfields and the ITV estate. We’re on a project with Buckley Gray Yeoman in Farringdon, and with Michel Mossessian and Sheppard Robson on other London projects. We also have schemes by Childs Graddon Lewis, PRP, RHWL and Levitt Bernstein.
How has the developer landscape changed during the economic downturn?
It has defined the developer. The considered ones have survived, the money-driven developers have all departed. Very few can actually develop consistently, and produce sustainability.
What is the one big change in office development over the past decade?
The consumer, and the behaviour of the consumer – and for good reasons. Design needs to evolve as the consumer markets evolve; what was good yesterday will not be good for today in many cases.
How do you chose an architect?
Our experience now leads us always to choose an architect by competition. We have three competitions on the go. Our last one involved 12 masterplaners and architects. A good architect for us is one that starts at the ground floor inside a building and has an appreciation of how a place and a building is used. If architects want to be credited with more than just the shape, colour or fabric of a building they need to fully understand the user.
Are you currently looking for new architects?
Constantly, and it is sometimes difficult to find architects who have the breadth of appreciation, so we go to certain architects for particular challenges. Don’t forget our starting point is always re-use.
What do you think of the government’s attempts to drive development?
Markets are best when left to operate; artificial incentive can distort and lead to damage, so any government intervention should always be as an enabler. Housing provision in London is a real challenge and it will take a very brave government to resolve it. Much more city living should be encouraged. We don’t need any ‘new towns’ – we need to continue to develop those core cities we already have, as they are so underpopulated.
Look at the Premier and Championship Cities and towns, I hazard a guess that none of these places have more than 20,000 people living in them, and in all cases their population 100 years ago was significantly higher. So put incentive where it can naturally be seized and delivered.
London housing development is currently distorting clear thinking. One measure should be to put some control into the London market, for instance each development over a certain size should have a restriction on the amount of accommodation can be sold to foreign investors and foreign nationals, and each building have a quota of stock that must be rented accommodation, it is simply inequitable that the people that make London work and breath are unable to live there. This needs urgent attention as it is wholly unsustainable.
What one thing could the government do to help you?
It could help us achieve more environmental benefits from our developments. We want to create a much higher environmental accreditation but it is so difficult to justify financially when the market doesn’t value these factors.
Which is your favourite or your schemes?
The Brunswick in Bloomsbury by Levitt Bernstein, Skypark in Glasgow by CDA and 20 Cannon Street in London by Denton Corker Marshall are all great award winning re-use projects.
Spinningfields has obviously been hugely successful creating or enabling buildings. But the favourite part for me is the Lawns, our new public space.
The best buildings at Spinningfields have yet the come, the Cotton Building will create a new asset class, Super Work Space Buildings and No1 Spinningfields will simply move the bar for a regional grade A office building.
But my favourite current projects are Herbal House in Farringdon, the Bonded Warehouse and the former Granada HQ, on the former ITV estate in Manchester.
How lucky are we to be the custodians of such heritage assets.
And which is your favourite by somebody else?
There are some great individual developments and buildings around the world. The design industry has become as global as any other industry, from small resorts in Asia and Africa, to major buildings in the world’s major cities. But being a regular traveller and an avid photographer of anything unique, London has grabbed a mantel on design. The response to the 2012 Games and the quality of each and every venue was extraordinary, so I don’t now run off around the world so much looking at buildings and places.
I can find a lot to inspire us in London, although New York and Berlin probably us remain the counter-culture inspiration for what we are trying,
What is your motto and why?
Deal with what’s at your feet.
It’s so easy to want to do more and set yourself and others unachievable goals. But you need to always keep your focus to be successful. If you deal well and properly with what you have at your feet then future success will come.