The Boat Brings Global Architecture Award To Belfast

10 October 2011

A groundbreaking Belfast building has won a top global architectural prize.  The Boat, designed by TODD architects in Belfast, won the 2011 Mixed Use Building of the Year in this year's LEAF awards.  LEAF is the forum of Leading European Architects and its members include many of the world's top architects, including Foster & Partners, Zaha Hadid, Henning Larsens, and Richard Rogers.  The annual awards are sponsored by Emirates Glass and are intended to promote and recognise superb architecture across the globe. This year's shortlists included some of the world’s most outstanding buildings and designs, selected from a large number of entries from Europe, Russia, Japan, Korea, India, the Middle East and North and South America.

Among this year's category winners were schemes by the American Stephen Holl, widely regarded as one of the world's finest architects, and Brazilian architect Marcio Kogan, designer of some of the most innovative and exciting residential properties across the globe.  The 14-storey Boat sits on the newly revived Customs House Square with spectacular views over the river Lagan, Belfast Lough and beyond. The tower incorporates luxury apartments above offices with a restaurant and bar space at ground and first floor level.  The judges highlighted the glazed facades, the bespoke aluminium and picture frames and the hardwood shading. They commented that the innovative live/work/leisure building was almost certainly the first of its kind in Belfast and described it as a 'contemporary landmark building sitting on the edge of the river Lagan, providing a gateway to the city and contributing to its revival'.  The Boat has already featured in a host of television programs including House of the Year and Panorama as producers have sought to take advantage of the stunning views from all of its apartment and office floors.

Paul Crowe, senior partner in Todd's was presented with the award and the reception from the 300 plus guests made it very clear that they were delighted The Boat design had won this prestigious category.  According to Paul Crowe this award, which is the first of its kind won by a Northern Ireland architectural practice, enhances Belfast's growing reputation as a city of talented professionals, capable of competing with the very best on a global scale, and as an attractive location for international companies seeking a place to do business.

Judges for the awards who were looking for 'strategic excellence, marketplace impact and above all innovation', comprised a number of key individuals drawn from various areas of the international architectural design and construction community.  The LEAF Awards are open worldwide to all those who have made an ‘outstanding contribution to the world of architectural and design build’ and recognise those that have not only had exceptional success but also shown leadership within their respective fields.

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Gone are the days of insolvency proceedings being a taboo occurrence with personal insolvency increasing by around 20% per annum since the peak of the market in 2007 and company insolvency increasing on average by 33% per year within the same period.  In this distressed climate, a wide and varied supply of property comes to the market presenting all manner of opportunities varying from single dwellings to large-scale investment properties and development sites often with planning permission in place. The role of a good agent in this landscape is to maximise the return so it is rarely as simple a matter as putting up a 'For Sale' board and hoping for the best.

Invariably assets arising from the insolvency process are tainted and restructuring methods such as the letting of vacant accommodation, re-gearing of leases and regularisation of tenancies are adopted in order to increase the value of the asset and the probability of achieving a favourable sale. In some cases, it may also be prudent to consider additional capital expenditure in the short to medium term, such as developing out sites to gain the best return.  On the other hand, it may be deemed most appropriate to retain the asset and nurture it over a period of time thereby maximising its value. 

With property often being the most valuable asset held by an individual or company, the role of the Fixed Charge Receiver or Agent plays a significant part in the larger insolvency picture with the requirement to provide realistic advice imperative thus allowing the client to devise a feasible exit or holding strategy.  The options available to the Insolvency Practitioner will be entirely dependent upon the means of insolvency that the company or individual is in. For instance, Administrations carry secured and unsecured creditors, therefore achieving a return is essential;  in the case of a Fixed Charge Receiver being appointed to an asset, the lender holds ultimate control and can apply flexibility.

There is no doubt that Insolvency Practitioners' workloads are soaring, and even though agents are setting up dedicated departments in order to manage these workloads, it must be stressed that this is not simply an opportunity to engage in a fire sale. The fundamental principles of value maximisation remain the same.  Having said that, there are favourable opportunities to be had with the obstacle of unrealistic vendor expectations eliminated.  As ever cash-buyers remain best placed to take advantage of the varied stock on offer.

What is evident is that Insolvency Practitioners, Receivers and their Agents are taking the opportunity to explore all disposal methods available , a key example of which is our recent auction when over 20 properties were sold within a 90-minute period with a further four properties sold prior to auction day!

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