Monsoon HQ development - The Times

Something bright is going on between Notting Hill and Shepherd’s Bush. The striped yellow shell of the new headquarters of the fashion retailer Monsoon is taking shape here, at the western edge of Holland Park in the so-called Notting Hill Village. The building, pictured right, which rather resembles a giant bumblebee, overlooks the lowlying BBC studios and the warehouses of White City, as well as the A40 flyover.

The project belongs to David Rosen, partner and founder of Pilcher Hershman property consultants. Pilcher Hershman are scouts who make big bucks out of big ideas. Notting Hill Village, a commercial and residential complex built around Monsoon’s new headquarters, is the most recent of these ideas. It will house the company’s design studios, administration and extensive art collection, and will include nine luxury flats priced from £850,000 each.

Pilcher Hershman usually takes the shell of an existing building and gives it an architectural overhaul: in this case it is constructing the buildings from scratch, and at present the project is a building site. The architectural firm AHMM (Allford Hall Monaghan Morris), a frequent collaborator with Pilcher Hershman, is designing this latest venture.

As well as Notting Hill Village, Pilcher Hershman is juggling the new Camden Arts Centre and Metropolitan Wharf in Wapping (described by Rosen as “the new Tea Building”, a reference to the Tea Building complex in Shoreditch). What these buildings have in common is their unusual architecture: indeed, Rosen believes that London’s new buildings haven’t been this good since the Victorian era.

Rosen’s motto seems to be: “It’s London”. He uses it to sum up the view from the new Monsoon HQ building and to describe his own manner, which is part dashing gent, part wheeler-dealer. He speaks in estuary English and grew up in a block of flats in Paddington, near to where he found the first Monsoon HQ site for its chairman, Peter Simon. The team behind Notting Hill Village, the two friendly tycoons and Simon Allford of AHMM, worked together on the first HQ (it looks like a ferry – it’s the branded, beige building you drive past on the Westway). Bettering London’s architecture is Rosen’s pleasure and his work: some of the city’s most exciting buildings are by him, such as Soho House and the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea.

Rosen sees no reason to separate the creative and the commercial. It is entrepreneurial creativity that got both he and Peter Simon where they are today. When he founded Monsoon in 1972, Simon used India as inspiration for populist British fashion: Rosen found favour with the arty brigade because his interest in detail matches theirs, and because he understands that they want light, plenty of space and a bit of character.

Rosen has turned a cliché into a business plan: where artists go, money follows. Unlike the estate agents who also know this, Rosen is instrumental in the artists’ bit, rather than the money bit. He says: “Get the artists in and the serious wallets will follow”. By which he means that because artists are occupying the Tea Building, all the City boys want ex-industrial flats in London E2.

Rosen uses the larger fees paid by the big guys (Mother Advertising, in the case of the Tea Building) to balance the subsidised rents offered to the little ones. It’s all a bit Robin Hood, but Pilcher Hershman runs a lucrative business.

And where will London’s flood of art and money flow next? Holland Park is saturated with bankers, and Notting Hill has long been the centre of West London’s creative scene. The Notting Hill Village development will struggle to bring in young artists because, despite its cheap studio space and collective philosophy, it remains merely a mimic of the cheap rents and real freedom to be found in a warehouse in Hackney Wick or a squat in Peckham. In reality Rosen is not in the business of defining the new locale for London’s experimental zeitgeist, but when the gilded youth grow up they tend to inhabit his buildings, leaving a rather rosy aftertaste to projects bearing the Pilcher Hershman nametag. With Camden Arts Centre and Metropolitan Wharf in the pipeline, Rosen is happily working away even without all the glamour.

If Charles Saatchi and Jay Joplin have used David Rosen, the chances are that more of the art world’s biggest players will come knocking on his door, in search of an estate agent, creative consultant, architect and all-round nice bloke.

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The Monsoon building, phase 1 of the Notting Hill Village project, will be released in May 2008, and will provide 38,000 sq ft for subletting on the first and second floors.

The Studio building, part of phase 2, will be available from Autumn 2008 and provide 30,000 sq ft of studio space.

The Nomis building, the second part of phase 2, will be available from Spring 2009 and have 82,000 sq ft of office space that will cost an estimated £32.50 per square foot.

Due for completion towards the end of 2009, phase 3 will include nine apartments totalling 10,500 sq ft and an hotel covering 16,000 sq ft, plus a restaurant. The flats will cost about £800 to £1,200 per square foot.