The frisson of deals being sealed was palpable at Mipim this year, as I suspect it is every year. Business card exchanges are made within moments at this megalithic property show, where architects are the hunters looking for their dream developer or other money man – a stark contrast to furniture shows where they are usually the prey.
This strictly businesslike approach was something first-time Mipim visitor Matt Parford, director with creative imagery specialist Visualhouse, appreciated: “The ease with which I was able to engage with people at all levels of seniority was refreshing. If you’re going there to network, you will enjoy it and see the value gained.”
Money talks of course, and few things exemplify this better than Cushman & Wakefield’s report The Great Wall of Money. This stated that going into 2016, a record $443bn of capital was being targeted at commercial real estate projects around the world.
“This year was the most positive since 2009,” says David Clements, managing director of lighting specialist FUTURE Designs. “There was a feeling of confidence with a little caution, which is no bad thing, although the overall slant was positive, particularly in the UK and UAE regions. Mipim captures our marketplace in its entirety, from occupiers to developers, architects and designers and building consultants on a global scale.”
Gill Parker, managing director with BDG Architecture + Design, adds: “Office design was higher on the agenda than normal, with discussions on co-working, wellbeing and art in architecture and the integration of workspace with housing for improving the quality of life.”
Another burning issue was the possible Brexit, as Tom Alexander, director with Aukett Swanke explains, “It was discussed with a range of views summed up as an awareness of its potential to influence and disrupt design and developments but with an appropriate quayside buoyancy that either outcome could be managed. Central London land values, construction costs and regional benefits were equally audible in the rapid transfer of views and knowledge across the events.”
One sub-trend within the workplace sector was the integration of technology. At the Innovation Forum, Ron Bakker, founding partner of PLP Architecture, spoke about how layers of smart technology are encouraging more flexible, social and spontaneous patterns of working, with reference to Amsterdam’s The Edge for OVG. HOK also dedicated a session to the benefits of using big data and new technologies in the Smart City design process. Cannes’ La Croisette bustled with blue suits and shades, quickly swapped for umbrellas as the weather turned distinctly Brit-like by the time mid-week came.
New London Architecture’s Discussion Forum on the London stand saw the furthest reaches of the capital come under discussion, such as Haringey, Hounslow and Nine Elms. And, as previewed in OnOffice 106, I chaired a session on making growth work now in up-and-coming Croydon with a veritable who’s who of stakeholders including representatives from developers Hammerson and Stanhope, retailer Westfield Shopping and pop-up mall purveyor BoxPark.
Elsewhere Istanbul’s expansive stand demonstrated its increasing prominence on the global property stage, revealing plans for a finance centre with Halk Real Estate Investment Trust involving two office towers with a total construction area of 440,000sq m. It was a bunfight – or should that be a brioche fight? – at the Paris stand next door, with visitors keen to see the future plans.
Slightly more reticent than other cities about major modern architectural intervention, Paris saw its Duo project by architect Jean Nouvel scoop the Best Futura Mega Project in the MIPIM awards. Gensler’s Shanghai Tower won the People’s Choice Award, and #Cloud.Paris by Philippe Chiambaretta Architecte scooping the Best Office and Business Development prize. Looking ahead, Eller + Eller’s high-rise offices for BASF SE in Ludwigshafen won the overall prize at the Mipim Future Project Awards.
As for gender balance, Parker sums things up nicely: “It was great to see lots of intelligent and bright women. It just goes to show the glass ceiling has weakened. I am positive that it will have completely disappeared for the next generation if the industry continues working together and promoting on merit not on gender.”
Workplace trends were high on the agenda at this year’s south of France property fair, where international office designers link up with the smart money