A week in the south of France sounds like a jolly, but for Rory Olcayto and Richard Waite MIPIM is all about industry trends. Here’s what you need to know from Europe’s largest property fair
More from: MIPIM: 10 things we learned
1 The War for Talent
This is a big deal. Practices are struggling to find staff. Business is booming but there is a dearth of people to fill the roles – and especially of those who can deliver schemes. As former RIBA president Jack Pringle observed: ‘Staff is the issue and poaching is rife.’
2 The silver pound property boom
It’s coming. If the past two years have been all about investing in the private rental sector (PRS), MIPIM 2015 was awash with rumour that money is starting to flow towards housing for older people. The revised London Plan, published last week, includes indicative requirement benchmarks for the delivery of specialist housing for older people for every borough. The London-wide target is 3,900 specialist units for older people every year until 2025 – more than three times the annual provision in recent years.
3 The London stand
London’s centrality to MIPIM grows by the year. In 2015, its beachside bar was the place to do business. Delegates from other city and national stands crowded in for a sniff of the action. And while the London stand was just half the size of the Paris stand – which boasted a €25 billion transport masterplan involving the creation of 72 new stations – it was twice as busy throughout the week.
The only other UK city investors unquestioningly want a piece of at MIPIM. Two major projects were mentioned time and again: NOMA, an 8ha mixed-use neighbourhood in the city centre; and Argent’s Airport City, the business park planned alongside Manchester’s runways. Tuesday night’s ‘Mancs-only’ party at Le Crillon was packed, as was the Manchester stand session with Gary Neville, to discuss his growing property portfolio.
5 Where did all the Russians go?
MIPIM 2015 was marked by a distinct lack of Russians and other former Soviets. Filling the void were the Turks – whose Istanbul tent featured MIPIM’s largest city model, a whopping 96m² (complete with moving ships), showcasing 40 major construction projects underway to the tune of €28 billion – and the Germans, whose delegates filled what seemed like an entire floor of the Palais des Festivals, no doubt buoyed by their recovering property fund sector.
If 2014 was noted for its drone demonstrations on the beach, this year the focus was on Occulus Rift, the Facebook-owned virtual reality headset technology which looks set to transform the property market. Liverpool design agency Uniform showcased a luxury property development which delegates could ‘inhabit’ using the immersive interface, while the city of Gothenberg invited guests to tour an entire new city sector using the technology.
Delegate numbers were up again on last year but on the ground at least – because MIPIM’s press office could not supply the gender breakdown – this felt like the blokiest get-together in years. At one prominent celebratory dinner by a leading British developer, the ratio of male to female guests was a staggering 40:1. Elsewhere Lille region enticed delegates with the promise of an appearance by Miss France. As Sam Jacob tweeted: ‘What decade is this?’
The Cycle To MIPIM cult is growing fast. This year – the 10th anniversary – there were more than 100 participants, including architects Chris Dyson, Joe Morris, Ben Cousins, David West, Paul Karakusevic, Phil Coffey (and many, many more) as well as developers Nick Searl and Ruairidh Jackson of Argent. It’s not all blokes – Sadie Morgan, for example, completed the tour this year, but it’s the guys who tend to speak of little else once they arrive in Cannes, to much fanfare, on Tuesday afternoon. Seriously – this cultish network is increasingly important to the business plans of ambitious architects.
9 Winning work
MIPIM is very good at helping you bypass red tape. Take the West Ham development call. If you weren’t on the GLA’s panel you could still get a crack if you were at MIPIM and asked to join one of the teams. At the other end of the scale J-J Lorraine of Morrow+Lorraine might have missed his flight home, but in the process he managed to pick up a 4,600m2 mixed-use scheme, despite only spending 24 hours in Cannes.
May 7 was the date on all British delegates’ minds. What impact will the election have on planning, on money, on certainty. One MIPIM stalwart confessed to AJ: ‘The election can’t come soon enough for us’. Apparently a number of their retail and residential clients have put projects on hold until the new government is formed.
What did you take away from MIPIM 2015?
Jo Negrini executive director of development and environment at Croydon Council
‘MIPIM 2015 was all about affordable, well-designed housing which can be built fast. It’s alright talking about the capacity for London to grow, but a key priority for us is housing for people in Croydon. I spoke to a number of really good designers about prefab housing and interestingly, a number of developers who are looking at methods for constructing housing in half the time.’
Sam Jacob of Sam Jacob Studio:
‘It is always good to go to MIPIM. Not necessarily pleasant, but useful. For an architect it’s like the Total Perspective Vortex in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. It reveals just how tiny a part architecture plays in the property universe…in this case a few uncomfortable stools in a tent right at the end of the Croisette in the so called ‘Architecture Cafe’. It’s a little disconcerting given how important we think it is for the rest of the year. But it is good to get a sense of proportion now and again. At MIPIM you really see what cities are made of: PR, spin, money and politics.’
Phil Coffey of Coffey Architects:
‘The lesson I learned from MIPIM was not to be a slave to the cash. Stick to your principles. If climate change matters we should care about it as much now as when we did three years ago when everyone was skint. Also collaboration is a buzzword right now, and so it should be. Large practices have a lot to gain from energetic, light-footed younger practices - but let’s remember this in times of famine as well as feast. Architecture should be leading the way on bottom-up climate and social change; caring about our communities and the planet; whatever the economic climate.’
Katie White, head of marketing at PRP:
‘A few years ago everyone was talking about the Private Rental Sector (PRS), whereas now senior living seems to be the new buzzword. It really works for developers as older person’s housing provides an uplift on value to a scheme and also provides additional community facilities so is financially beneficial. Fortunately we’re all living longer so it’s set to be the next booming market.’
Karen Cook of PLP
‘London is definitely the city in which to live and work: this is what I’ll be taking away from MIPIM 2015. This year, ideas took pride of place - not buildings - as the assembled experts debated the big issues that will affect our industry in years to come. The week was intense, as if a slice of London had been compressed in time and space.’
Rab Bennetts of Bennetts Associates:
‘The contradiction of attending MIPIM a week after speaking about sustainability at Ecobuild was preying on my mind long before starting my first visit to Cannes. Putting aside the blokes-in-suits, the parties, the lunches, the corporate contacts and the ridiculous cost, the lasting impression was of cities and countries all competing to offer much the same thing. Stand after stand, models and CGIs vied for attention, trying to attract investment through the same formula of pumped-up, glitzy blocks regardless of context. The sheer scale and momentum of MIPIM was awesome but its impact is eroding the distinctiveness of cities round the globe… effectively suppressing the qualities that make these distinguished places worth visiting, working in or, indeed, investing in. Local and regional variations – so critical to sustainability - have never seemed more absent and more important.’