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This July we find ourselves adjusting to a new post-covid reality. For most, international travel plans are on hold, or certainly proposing a different perspective on travel and what our longed-for holiday may actually hold in store for us when we arrive. New rules and regulations and perhaps diminished entertainment and restaurant service is something we have all endured, but now that holiday season is kicking we are also finding rules are relaxing.
To kick off our best of Britain travel edit we have the visionary and developer extraordinaire John Hitchcox tells us talks The lake by Yoo, the new project in Olympia and much more…
CHAIRMAN AND CO-FOUNDER YOO
HAVE YOU ALWAYS BEEN IN REAL ESTATE DEVELOPMENT?
Creating places is truly in in my blood – my grandfather was a developer and my father was an architect. I was about 19 years old when I started on my first, very small, project and have been fortunate enough subsequently to work on many incredible placemaking and regeneration projects with great developers and some fantastic architects and designers.
YOO IS AN AMAZING CONCEPT? HOW YOU CAME UP WITH THE CONCEPT?
Philippe and I started with the concept that customers would come to one of our buildings and choose one of four words. We used words (Culture, Classic, Minimal and Nature) because when it comes to our home we are more intellectual than practical and it seemed the clearest way to help people identify with their personal style.
This was the original concept of YOO, 21 years ago. And then we went out and I got on an aeroplane, and went from one country to another and another, from New York to Peru, to Panama, to Hong Kong. We’ve been doing this all over the world for many years now and it’s been astoundingly successful. I don’t think it’s because I’m very good in what I do. Apart from the fact that we just completely focussed ourselves on trying to help people get the best out of their lives in their homes, I think it is because there was a void there in the market place.
Over 20 years on and I can safely say that void has been filled. It’s given me a unique, true perspective on how people live all over the world and also the concept of globalization. Our tribes used to exist in a tiny village, where families would grow and the husband and wife would probably have lived less than a mile away from each other. With the advent of motor transport that distance would grow up to four miles and then further and further with air travel and the internet, until now we have global communities. We have people who are like-minded that live in London, New York and thousands of cities all over the world, who think and behave in similar ways. So the village today is frequently an urban village.
PLEASE TELL US MORE ABOUT THE LAKES BY YOO?
This project is so dear to me and was developed out of my passion to build a community dedicated to creating an ecologically sustainable and literally soul nurturing second home retreat.
It is located in the heart of the Cotswolds and comprises of 130 homes spanned throughout six crystal clear lakes and is set in 850 acres of Conservation park and woodland.
Along with the lakes we are surrounded by meadows and woodlands and it has everything from tennis and basketball to fishing and boating on site; there is a kids club too.
YOU HAVE ANOTHER AMAZING DEVELOPMENT YOU ARE WORKING ON IN OLYMPIA. WHAT EXACTLY WILL THE DEVELOPMENT BE?
Olympia Exhibition Centre was built in 1886 as the National Agricultural Hall. Today it is one of the most recognisable landmarks in London and home to more than 220 exhibitions and events each year.
Olympia is the £1 billion regeneration of a 130-year-old exhibition centre set over a 14-and-a-half-acre site in West London. The exhibition business and the surrounding area will be transformed into a world-leading arts, entertainment, exhibition and experiential district whilst staying true to its original heritage a ‘People’s Palace’.
The public experience will be enhanced by dedicating at least 2.5 acres to new green public space including a number of pedestrianised squares and a sky garden will add more urban green space for visitors and the local community to enjoy. The aim here is to extend the energy and character of the exhibitions out into the public realm by providing outdoor arts and events spaces.
New amenities will provide a greater range of facilities for a global audience and will include two new hotels, 1,500 seat theatre, 4,000 capacity performing arts space, a four-screen arthouse cinema as well 625,000 sqft of office and creative studio space and 40+ new eateries and restaurants.
WHAT A WONDERFUL PROJECT, DO YOU HAVE SOME ARTIST WORKING ON THIS PROJECT WITH YOU?
We are working with celebrated designer Thomas Heatherwick Studio and SPPARC Architects; both who are helping us to realise our vision.
COVID HAS CHANGED OUR PERSPECTIVE ON LIFE, HAS THIS INFLUENCED YOU IN ANY OF YOUR FUTURE WORK? OR SPURRED ANOTHER FABULOUS IDEA?
Covid 19 has accelerated as phase in the evolution of human behaviour, how profound and long lasting this will be we will find out over the coming years. It will affect our work life balance . It will affect our office environment and how it is used . It will affect our attitude towards travel . Hopefully it will affect our attitude towards the planet.
YOU HAVE AN UNCANNY WAY OF MAKING A DESTINATION FABULOUS. CAN YOU INSPIRE US AND WITH SOME WITH SOME TRULY AMAZING BRITISH HOLIDAYS?
My best British holidays are always at the Lakes; my wife and I are truly blessed to be a part of this urban escape, 90 minutes from London that accommodates and delights all five of our children (ranging in age from 26 to 4 years old).
A true escape where we can all be together as a family and enjoy the fabulous surrounding – where we bike, sail, swim, entertain guests and relax – I am a very lucky man indeed!
HOW DO YOU KEEP BUSY?
I play the guitar, kite surf, mountain bike and play lots of music. I also build buildings… a bit like lego.
WHAT IS THE ONE THING YOU CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT?
My guitar and mountain bike.
Sapiens, The hidden life of tree.
WHAT IS THE BEST GIFT YOU EVER RECEIVED?
A beautiful eye mask, from my son.
We all have a favourite place to go, and here we share our favourite UK get-away locations.
Whether holidaying abroad or making the most of the glorious weather England
seems to be showing us, we are all craving a getaway after being confined to
our homes, so this July we are looking at travel gifts, beautifully and
thoughtfully curated by Storcx. Happy gifting
Remember Keep Life Simple – #storcxit