As a developer, Urban Splash agonises about the choice of architects we use, and we spend hours with the designers discussing and refining the details and design of our buildings. But does it really make a difference?
I've been frustrated on many occasions by the mediocrity of a lot of the apartment buildings currently being developed, particularly in cities like Manchester and Birmingham, and even more annoyed that, despite their mediocrity, these apartments seem to sell well and, on occasions, extremely quickly.
I've never been able to understand why someone would choose a dull, poorly designed apartment when much better designed alternatives are available at similar prices.
Was all the time we spent picking sites, running architectural competitions to find the very best designers, pushing planning permissions and generally working hard to squeeze every bit of potential out of every site a waste of effort, when others were seemingly building absolutely average developments and selling them off plan?
However, two things reassured me last month.
The first was a visit to another development that I consider to be mediocre and had been surprised to learn was supposedly sold out many months ago. However, when I visited I found out in actual fact it wasn't sold out at all.
The second was Urban Splash's recent launch of the Rotunda in Birmingham.
Here we are working with Glenn Howells to turn the cylindrical landmark that was once the unloved Rotunda offices above the Bullring into 232 new apartments.
I think most people would agree that the residential market in Birmingham City Centre is quite difficult at present, with many developments unsold.
However, we launched the Rotunda and, within 20 minutes of the public launch, every apartment had been reserved.
I'm sure much of this was due to the interesting design by Glenn Howells alongside a great location and good marketing.
It is very reassuring that, when the market gets tough, great buildings, great locations and great design will always sell. Seeing the success of something like the Rotunda launch really reassured us that spending time, energy and resources on design not only makes for great buildings but makes great business sense as well.