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At £540,000 for a studio, the outpaced young will never catch up

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Does London’s clutch of new housing on the South Bank really ‘suit anyone’?

As a journalist living in London and in my twenties, flying the nest any time soon looks unlikely. I did once, for a couple of years, and lived in a cupboard in a former brothel where clients who hadn’t got the memo hammered at the door through the night. Whispers could be heard through the walls; it was always freezing cold; there was no shower; and I loved it.

Now I’m back in the nest, with all my fellow hatchlings (also in their twenties). Mother bakes bread and no-one’s flapping their wings particularly hard. But there’s always that slightly niggling thought that, one day, we’ll have to shape up and ship out.

Painfully aware of this inevitability, I attended the press unveiling of the Southbank Marketing Suite. It’s a car showroom-like space promoting apartments in Squire & Partners’ One York Square, tallest of the eight buildings in the Shell Centre development.  The project is a collaboration between Qatari Diar, Canary Wharf Group, Squire & Partners, interior designers of the actual flats Johnson Naylor and interior designers of the marketing suite Goddard Littlefair. I think that’s it … the PR swarm was humming.

Orange juice in hand, I was escorted around the suite and given a glimpse into the grown-up life it’s supposed I should aspire to. The suite ‘experience’ is about the journey, I was told, and from the first few tentative steps to signing on the dotted line, the marketing team/clairvoyants anticipate ‘the touchpoints of the future client’, which include polychromatic rock salt in the kitchen.

The first stop on the journey was a room filled with models, plans and CGIs showing the exterior of One York Square. I thought I recognised some kindred spirits in the CGI’d young professionals: kicking back in the lobby, discussing weekend plans, and just generally being the future client.  That could be me, I thought. It conjured up a vision of drinking artisan gin on my Juliette balcony with one of these CGI Romeos.

The reverie was interrupted when the architect from Squire & Partners took the floor. He kept referring to the tower by its site name, ‘4A’. Each time a pantomime PR chorus chanted back: ‘One York Square!’

In the prototype of the studio apartment, the journey continued.  This time it was from the entrance to the kitchen, which was a short journey, though the space in the studio apartments is described as ‘very generous’. Glancing around the space provided more material for my vision. In my future-client avatar, I will have back-up supplies of Aesop hand cream. I will rub my feet at the end of a hard day with pumice stones artfully arranged by the bath. I will read nothing, but will flick through glossy coffee table books on interior design and Kate Moss. I will whip up a white asparagus tart, seasoned with aforementioned rock salt.

I didn’t warm to the cold and cumbersome marble worktops, the clinical white cupboards and furniture and the dark timber floors. Yet I was assured that the design is ‘unimposing’, ‘subtle’ and ‘suits anyone’.

Anyone? I asked one of the PRs. Well not quite anyone: ‘It’s about this small word “taste”.’

I left the marketing suite with a clearer idea of the self I must become, and a ‘brochure’ the size of a glossy coffee table book for further study.

Though it’s very clear what kind of taste you need to develop to become the future client, it doesn’t come cheap. At £540,000 for a studio apartment, or £14,700 per square metre, I as the future client will have to be earning 22 times the median London income. So unless it works out with the CGI Romeo, I think it’s back to the nest, or the brothel, for me.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Very soon the creative young people will notice that there are other brilliant and cheap cities in the UK and will flood out of London in their direction. When all the warehouse clubs, gay bars, cheap spaces, authentic places have been converted to luxury accommodation there won't be anything here to attract them. It's inevitable. I'm just waiting for it to all implode. Of course we could try to do something about it, we say lazily....

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