NLQ goes to MIPIM: David Taylor’s letter from Cannes – day 3

Friday 9 March 2012

And so to day three, with more than half an eye on the future, as well as on journeys home.

In terms of the future for the office market, visitors to an NLA event on the London stand heard how there are key drivers for building occupiers, owners and designers. For the occupiers, said head of property management at GVA John Jones, there are big changes in the way that buildings are run, ranging from the way they are powered to the facilities they give over to the growing trend of cycling. We're talking showers, cycle racks, and other additions. For Kevin Chapman, head of offices at Lend Lease, the key move has been one in terms of an attempt at differentiation from rivals, with owners looking to 'brand' themselves more and more through their architecture. But owners are also seeking to capitalise on changing, more 'fluid' working patterns to raise densities and get as much efficiency as they can from their buildings. For the designer, said Phillip Tidd of Gensler, those patterns mean that the concept of the desk will become 'irrelevant' and growing obsolescence of the desktop computer also has a bearing on the kinds of interior spaces coming forward. 'Presenteeism is dead', he said of the patterns and the way that work is now what you do, not where you are, 'long live presence'. 

The future is also about retrofitting, though, and especially in an age of austerity, with a general widespread compunction to be green. Former RIBA president Sunand Prasad said in a special session on the subject that it was crucial to simplify the numbering involved with making low energy choices and improve the technology available to implement measures. But perhaps the key thing was 'to see all retrofit as renewal'. Whichever way one looks at it, however, sustainability is a 'fantastic business opportunity'.

As this year's MIPIM drew to a close, with a slightly more dilute sunshine lapping the London stand's terrace, the main topics of discussion were Allford Hall Monaghan Morris' hush hush, white collar factory proposals for Google at King's Cross, with a little conjecture about the stalled Pinnacle project in the City thrown in for good measure. And, after an appreciated 'Canned laughter' summary session from Paul Finch in which he remarked upon how everywhere and every project called itself a 'city' these days, there was still time to consider what the 'safe haven' of London has to offer to the wider investment and property world. The answer must be - in the best MIPIM parlance - a great deal. 

David Taylor, Editor, New London Quarterly

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