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Robert Wolstenholme: 'I like architects who are brave, bold and enthusiastic'

Robert Wolstenholme of Trilogy
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Client Q&A: former Resolution Property chief Robert Wolstenholme on his emerging venture Trilogy, and why he is looking for ’young talent to marry with old heads’

Where have you come from?
Architecture. I started out studying at the Bartlett but realised I was more interested in the business side of property. I’ve worked as a chartered surveyor, a fund manager and now a developer, but I’ve never lost my interest in design.

As a graduate at Jones Lang LaSalle I specialised in the office sector, bringing corporates like Microsoft, BP and 3M together with developers and funding institutions, and architects.

I met Resolution Property in the 1990s at a time when I was investigating the viability and value of refurbishing interesting but neglected buildings. Greater London House in Mornington Crescent was our first, and my final projects at Resolution Property were the Ampersand building in Soho and the Alphabeta Building in Shoreditch, both of which launched last year.

What do you plan to do differently at Trilogy?
The market is changing so fast that whatever I do will be different. Younger tenants will need new work environments and we’re constantly adapting to technology.

At Resolution I learned there was real satisfaction in repositioning existing buildings and working with their constraints and risks. With Trilogy I’m developing this expertise with a strategy of fewer buildings and strong collaborations with architects, urbanists, artists and end users. I’m very interested in creating buildings and places tied to culture and with links to the community.

What projects are you working on now?
At East India Dock we’re rethinking the business campus typology, looking at who will work there, what they want and how that might change over time. It’s a Postmodern building which we’re rebranding as well as refurbishing - an evolutionary process that begins with the masterplan. Our neighbours will include the English National Ballet, the London College of Fashion and the creative hub that’s already in place at Trinity Buoy Wharf.

East India Dock (1992) by Sten Samuelson with Beaton Thomas Partnership

East India Dock (1992) by Sten Samuelson with Beaton Thomas Partnership

East India Dock (1992) by Sten Samuelson with Beaton Thomas Partnership

Great Northern Warehouse is a very urban project in Manchester. It will transform a large warehouse that stands on the site of the Peterloo Massacre and next to the Lesser Free Trades Hall, where the Sex Pistols played their seminal gig. Peter Saville and Nick Johnson advised on a brief which focuses on the spirited history of the site and its potential. Will Alsop won our architectural competition on the strength of some very interesting ideas on public space, but now we are knuckling down to start developing the designs.

Both schemes are fully funded, so 2016 is going to be quite a year.

Which architects are you working with – and why have you chosen them?
Richard Hywel Evans of Studio RHE is a long-term collaborator and is mapping out the masterplan for East India Dock, and Will Alsop is on board at Great Northern Warehouse. I like architects with an entrepreneurial spirit, and both have developed their own headquarters and understand bringing together the elements of a successful place - it’s not just architecture.

I really like to involve collaborators like branding visionary Simon Turnbull and graphic designer Tom Hingston, as well as end users like tech venture company Blenheim Chalcot, who are partners on Manchester for instance.

What opportunities will you have in the future for architects?
Both schemes are masterplans at this stage, so a number of phases will come forward. I always want experienced architects on the team, but I’m interested in creating workplaces for the talent of the future so I need to understand the values of young people. I’m always on the lookout for young talent to marry with old heads. Paul Cocksedge was fresh from the RCA when we met, and he created the beautiful living staircase that defines the Ampersand Building.

Architects who understand communication and concept really help developers

What do you look for in an architect?
I like architects who are brave, bold, modern and enthusiastic.

To turn around a reputation and get people excited about off-the-map places or unfashionable buildings, the team has to be confident and have a strong vision to sell. Architects who understand the importance of communication and concept really help developers give stakeholders and investors’ confidence in a project.

Robert Wolstenholme is managing director of Trilogy Property

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