October 2016


For years we’ve regularly attended the better known MIPIM in Cannes, France, but didn’t know what to expect from its younger and smaller UK cousin.

Before signing up we asked ourselves all the usual questions: Will it really be useful? Will it be worth the time spent out of the office? Will we meet people we can do business with? We needn’t have worried.

On the first morning I steadied any pre-networking nerves by attending the Keynote Speeches, where leading industry figures considered what Brexit really means for UK property. We’re all wondering what impact it will have on our business, especially in the property and construction sectors, and hearing expert views set the scene for more informal discussions on the topic.

Of the seminars I attended two in particular stood out. One seminar, a PechaKucha format entitled Designing Future Housing, saw five leading architects given five minutes each to tell us how their practice has designed houses fit for the 21st Century, helping to ease the current housing crisis. Annalie Riches of Mikhail Riches gave a thought provoking insight into their innovative housing projects the practice is working on, including Phase 2 of Park Hill in Sheffield with regeneration specialist Urban Splash. And Jessica Reynolds of vPPR spoke about their projects, including the Vaulted House and Ott’s Yard, where private houses had been fitted into extremely awkward spaces. Her focus on creating sympathetic housing developments in difficult sites presented a realistic solution that could really help solve London’s housing crisis.

The Estates Gazette REWIRE Breakfast also stood out for highlighting issues affecting women in the built environment. A panel of successful women comprising Samantha McClary of Estates Gazette, Lucinda Bell from British Land, Alexandra Houghton from Carter Jonas and Sadie Morgan from dRMM, talked about how things are changing for the better. I was impressed that a whole session at MIPIM UK was dedicated to the topic.

But the highlight of the conference had to be The Legacy Foundation being presented by footballers and backers Rio Ferdinand, Mark Noble and Bobby Zamora. It was uplifting to see these footballers, who all grew up on London estates, stepping-up and putting their energy into delivering housing schemes for local authorities. The aim is to help reduce the pressure on affordable housing and local community services, as well as empowering young residents through onsite communities and sporting facilities. Rio said he doesn’t just want to be remembered as a great footballer. This bold initiative will ensure he isn’t.

Now onto the networking, probably the main reason most attended the conference. How was it? Well, I returned with around 90 business cards with real potential for us to do business with most of the people they came from. Networking events in the Business Lounge at the start and end of the day were very well attended. Unlike in Cannes, where everybody tends to be more dispersed, the layout of MIPIM UK forced attendees to come together in the same place. And you can’t help bumping into old contacts as well as making new ones. I found myself meeting people I’d only emailed or spoken to on the phone in the flesh for the first time.

Another best bit for me was attending the MIPIM UK Visionary Awards on the Thursday evening and being sat next to Phil Coffey of Coffey Architects – named Visionary Architect of the Year at the awards. Congratulations to him! And lastly, the stands. My runner up has to be Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council’s for the free mini bottles of craft vodka! But the winner has to be Residential Land for its seating with phone charging points, free tea and coffee, and most importantly, frozen yogurt.

In summary, MIPIM UK was great. Yes, there were plenty of local authorities there searching for investment, but there were certainly enough developers and architects to keep a structural engineering consultancy happy too!

Jo Shepherd