While the annual property fair is primarily a platform for developers to sell their schemes, it’s also a great showcase for architects, writes Richard Waite
‘MIPIM is becoming more important for architects and architecture is becoming more important for MIPIM,’ said John Prevc of Make this week.
New figures released by the organisers of the annual international property fair held in Cannes suggest he’s right.
This year the show will attract 20,000 visitors – up from last year and the fifth successive rise in attendees since the worldwide property crash in 2008, when a peak of almost 30,000 descended on the Côte d’Azur.
Of this year’s – largely male, largely besuited – crowd, 609 will be architects hoping to land work, or at least keep themselves in the consciousness of developers when they eventually decide to press ahead with schemes further down the line. In 2010, there were 587.
Prevc continued: ‘MIPIM is not just about developers trying to sell their latest commercial inventions; it’s about architects trying to procure their next commission.
‘It has become an important showcase for architects and their increased numbers on La Croisette suggest that it is in their interest to be there.’
However, Prevc issued a word of warning to anyone unaccustomed to the bizarre developer/investor/architect dance which happens every March around the bunker-like Palais des Festivals and the seafront hotels. He said: ‘The relationship between architects and the annual pre-spring courtship is sometimes a strained one.
‘Potential clients are inclined to have a secondary interest in the profession as their focus is inevitably around funding, partnership or sale of the
scheme they have on display. This is often frustrating, but Cannes offers the best potential for face-time with the greatest number of potential clients in any one place at any one time.’
Last year the presence of architecture, which has always been an integral part of the event since it launched in 1990, was unmissable.
In front of the gargantuan conference centre, representatives from Qatar’s Msheireb development pitched up with a prominent two-storey pavilion adorned with gigantic mugshots of Angela Brady and Will Alsop and housing a huge model of the 31-hectare project in Doha.
Richard Rogers and engineer Patrick Bellew were key speakers.
Festus Moffat of John Robertson Architects, who is heading out to MIPIM for a third time, believes exhibitors, especially the city regions and 83 countries hoping to tempt megabuck investment, are continuing to raise their design profiles. He said: ‘Cities now have to work harder to present their view of themselves and that they are open for business.
‘MIPIM needs architects to deliver them a vision, particularly in the emerging markets, to attract money and investment. It is a shop window.’
This year Turkey will be taking over as MIPIM’s country of honour, hot on the heels of the abolition by the Turkish government of a law banning some foreigners from buying property in the country.
There will also be an increased presence from Latin American countries, with a dedicated Brazil pavilion, a debut for Chile and the return of both Argentina and Uruguay.
But, as Cany Ash of Ash Sakula remarked, a lot of the meetings at MIPIM will be with existing contacts from the UK. She said: ‘The value of MIPIM to us is that you can often triangulate conversations that would simply be too complicated to convene in London. Having said that, there might be other ways of spending the marketing budget. It is just that this way we feel you are inoculated for a whole year.’
Richard Nelson, formerly of Llewelyn Davies Yeang and now of business development consultancy Abyss Global, is not as cynical, believing 2013 could be one of the most significant years in MIPIM’s history. He said: ‘Architecture will be even more important this year, as confidence is returning to the property industry and it will be advantageous to be a part of the network and to hear about interesting new opportunities as things ramp up again around the globe.’
This year will be more important than next for architects
He added: ‘This year will be more important than next for architects. [Many developers and clients] are very near the start of the process for development, so now is the time to be making connections and pursuing opportunities.’
Martin Gibson, of Manchester-based GA Studio Architects & Designers is also optimistic about the potential of winning work on La Croisette. He said: ‘Although MIPIM has always been about showcasing cities on an international stage, historically this was overshadowed in the main by the corporate world of deal-making and extravagant yacht parties.
‘Nowadays, if you are at MIPIM you are there for the right reasons. There is a mindset with small practices that MIPIM is either not affordable or not worth it, that the super-practices have it all wrapped up. I used to think like this but, having been to MIPIM a number of times now, we are increasingly more comfortable punching above our weight.’
Richard Hyams of Astudio added: ‘The MIPIM-world is becoming more discerning and choosing good architects and showcasing them, as there has been an increase in good-quality buildings being presented.
‘But there are a number of stands and pavilions that leave you bewildered when it comes to design, which makes you realise most of the show is about attracting investment and that architects are second or third in line in terms of meetings.’
And not everyone will be going back this year. Alison Brooks, of Alison Brooks Architects, said: ‘I’ll miss the camaraderie of the UK architectural and consultant community that gathers at MIPIM and participating in the seminars and group discussions.
‘However, MIPIM is primarily a forum for cities, regions and developers to attract investors by exhibiting their planned projects. Most enlightened developers source their architects through channels other than MIPIM.’
Peter Rhodes, managing director of MIPIM, Reed MIDEM UK:
’Design and architecture has always played a vital role at MIPIM and the sectors have been well represented over the years. In recent tough years, MIPIM has been about getting down to business and while the economy is still uncertain, we fully expect MIPIM to be busy, with 20,000 attending – a rise on last year and the architectural community is an essential part of the overall delegation. This year we’ve launched the MIPIM Innovation Forum, a dedicated pavilion to those involved in building tomorrow’s cities, the forum will also exhibit the Porous City Exhibition which uses Lego towers to explore futuristic concepts of urban design imagined by Winy Maas. There will also be the likes of Kengo Kuma, Jürgen Mayer H, Carlo Ratti, Jacques Ferrier attending and speaking at MIPIM.’
Niall Cairns, director at Assael Architecture:
‘As architects look to expand into both new markets and sectors, attendance at MIPIM is becoming a more important date in the professional diary. Prior to the global economic downturn, a visit to MIPIM for architects was a bonus treat for staff with more focus on finding the best party rather than discovering new contacts. How the focus has changed. The economic slowdown has had the effect of a cull on the hangers on and party boys, although thank god a few of these still remain, the effect being that access for architects to decision makers is increased, networking is more focused and the use of time more efficient.
The economic slowdown has had the effect of a cull on the hangers on
More than 300 local authorities use MIPIM to market their particular region for development to the 2500-investor/development companies in attendance. Increasingly this has been through the large-scale displays showcasing not just potential development opportunities but also the architects involved in realising the vision for these areas. [The event] is the perfect opportunity for architects to observe what our fellow professionals are undertaking on a global scale, absorb the zeitgeist and showcase our skills to a wider audience.’
Jonathan Clarke, principal of Woods Bagot Europe:
’Our business is about relationships. MIPIM is undoubtedly the best forum to make and build relationships. We are taking an active role in the agenda, with speaking slots in both the CoreNet programme, as well as on the London stand.”
Jason Prior, global chief executive officer of Buildings and Places at AECOM:
‘Since the last recession hit we have seen our industry change and evolve to reflect the growing strength of clients in emerging markets, the importance of showcasing our world class design skills in these markets as well as the growing importance of a global footprint. We are also witnessing a profound change in design procurement and delivery. Single source teams, more and more P3 and DB, and risk sharing etc challenge our traditional approach.
MIPIM creates the opportunity [for architects] to meet with larger global firms with whom they can collaborate
MIPIM creates an environment to explore these issues and provides the opportunity for architects to network with developers, owners and contractors from emerging markets as well as the opportunity to meet with larger global firms with whom they can collaborate when bidding and working in new markets. We will only see the importance of events that bring people together in this way increasing.