The End of Real Estate Development as We Know It?

William Murray
Director / Owner
Wordsearch, London

The world is changing rapidly, and with it our expectations of how places function, of whom they are for and why we spend time in them. Our working practices have changed, and with it our expectations of when and where we work. More of us are living in cities, where we have traditionally sought greater anonymity, whilst now we crave greater social connection and meaning.

Traditional development and design practices are organized to deliver bricks and mortar, not places, experiences, or customer-focused products. The process generally begins with a site, progresses through feasibility, design, and construction, before place and customer are properly considered. The result is generic design and self-serving developments that are inauthentic and unpopular. As our urban odyssey continues, and as increasing density and height become inevitable, we need to think ever more carefully about what sort of places, communities, and cities we want and need to make.

If the real estate industry doesn’t adapt at lightning speed, then it will be out of place with the world’s wants and needs. As the technology industry has demonstrated, that is the point at which a new model could be created. Just as WeWork is beginning to disrupt our idea of what an office developer looks like, so another way of thinking could similarly change the rest of the industry. This talk challenges the current practice of development and it’s lack of placemaking, and suggest an alternative proposition that will help to make future developments more successful.