By Suzy Menkes
November 17, 2008
Mrs. Hicks, what are you currently working on?
I hope I won’t disappoint you with my answer. In fact, I initially stopped retail design. Currently, I’m seeking to buy land in and around London. It is rather hard to describe to you what I really do, because you will certainly maintain that I run land utilization, but that’s not the case. I want to and have purchased land in order to build houses, but not to sell them as profitably as possible. No, what drives me is the strong desire to build innovative, interesting houses.
The focus is clearly on the architecture. Certainly, the project is financially worthwhile for me because I naturally don’t want to lose money – but to me it’s not about maximizing profits. I’m fine if I can knock out a decent, good profit for me.
I primarily care about good design. That’s not so easy to realize, as we English are very conservative, even when it comes to design and architecture.
Contemporary architecture is here, especially in London, hardly accepted.
Don’t get me wrong, there are of course some interesting buildings in town. But it is much easier to design something boring and then getting the building permit for it.
You see, the people who use this land have to invest so much time and money in the appropriate building permits that they have to plan the building from the beginning in a cost efficient way within the shortest timeframe and of low quality. In my opinion, is this the wrong way. Sure, these people increase their profits in a very short time to a maximum, that’s very clever, but: London is such an important city, even just for design and architecture, so we should not allow that our cityscape will soon be dominated by boring, cheap buildings.
I think this is a problem of many large cities. I want to counteract this.
I’m taking a really high risk, but I also want to prove that my approach is quite profitable. Because there are enough people who are looking for beautiful, contemporary houses and apartments – you just have to offer them. But they are few, so it draws people here to Notting Hill where they pounce on the old Victorian homes and thus push up the prices beyond measure. Why? Because they were built in a solid way and are timelessly beautiful. I would also prefer to buy such a house than a cheap ‘Retortenbau’. I hope I can offer this city something better, architecturally more interesting in the future. As I said, it’s a risk.
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