Group of people in a red room watching talk sitting on chairs

people sitting on chairs on a stage giving a panel discussion

Durjoy Rahman of Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation addresses the audience at the AVPN South Asia Summit

A pioneering conference in India is seeking to kick start venture philanthropy in South Asia

‘We had a strong sense that our projects had a lack of effectiveness. Add to that the lack of transparency as well as poor methods of measuring impact, and it became clear that something needed to be done.’

On a charity fundraising trip in 2002, Doug Miller realised the futility of his friends’ and his impact ventures in private equity. Unlike traditional investments, metrics were undeveloped, and methods and final impact opaque. In short, a lot of capital and time was being spent with the best of intentions but with limited results.

In response to this, Miller developed the European Venture Philanthropy Association (EVPA) in 2004 and the Asian Venture Philanthropy Network (AVPN) in 2011, bringing a collaborative approach to venture philanthropy through exchanges with impact investment.

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His successor is the overwhelmingly accoladed Naina Subberwal Batra, CEO of AVPN and Chair of the International Venture Philanthropy Center, proclaimed one of Asia’s Most Influential by Tatler Asia in 2021 and awarded awarded one of Asia’s Top Sustainability Superwomen by CSRWorks. Batra presided over the latest AVPN South Asia Summit in Mumbai earlier this month; it was the first of these conferences to take place in person, last year’s inaugural edition having taken place virtually. This year’s theme was ‘Bringing Fringes to the Fore”, and it brought together individual philanthropists from culture, education and social impact, and major global companies and organisations.

Durjoy Rahman, a philanthropist from Bangladesh engaged in South Asian art and culture, focused around the creative realm and cultural soft power. Speaking of the cultural world, he said that one of the missions of this Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation was to show that the cultural world “does not need to be seen or judged by the West’s historical perspective”. Durjoy said he is finding this message is finding resonance both in the rest of the Global South, and also in the traditional cultural capitals of the West.

people sitting on chairs in a red room listening to a talk

AVPN South Asia Summit brings together philanthropists, venuture capitalists and other leasers to promote the field of venture philanthropy

“It is important to lead the conversation, and to do so needs to involve a multilateral, global conversation. It’s not about doing something and broadcasting information about what we do: multiple dialogues are the way to ensure we engage with like-minded individuals and institutions around the world.”

Durjoy also spoke about how the creative realm can contribute to future-ready education; and specifically, how the creative and cultural field can play a “soft power” role in influencing international views of Bangladesh, a country only founded in 1971 which previously had a negative economic reputation but is now one of the fastest-growing economies in the region.

The same panel, moderated by Vivek Agarwal of the Tony Blair Institute, also focused on educational reform, and featured Dr. Akhil Shahani, Managing Director of The Shahani Group, Dr. Nivedita Narain, CEO of OneStage and Rakshit Kejriwal, President of Phillips Education, speaking about empowerment in employability.

With a history of philanthropic infrastructure lacking in Asia, AVPN CEO Batra is building a network, catering to models that suit the collective regional story and its challenges, moving from a purist venture philanthropy, focused on empowering voices and expanding the network at all costs.

Venture philanthropy itself is a relatively new field, pioneered in the US and now making inroads around the world. It combines elements of traditional philanthropy, where a return is measured purely on the impact of the philanthropic aims, and traditional venture capital seeking a return. There is a prevailing view now that this maximises returns on both levels.

The AVPN conference is aimed to be an interregional weaving of thought leaders and industry experts, where a collective regional story is conducive to progress as opposed to challenging it. Its brief spans culture and education, as well as sustainable development goals.

Left to right: Vivek Agarwal, Dr Akhil Shahani, Rakshit Kejriwal, Durjoy Rahman at the AVPN Summit after their talk on future-ready education

A conference on social impact and sustainable development runs the risk of empty pledges. But not at AVPN – Lavanya Jayaram, South Asia Regional Director, ensured animated conversations, with stakeholders ‘debating unique regional challenges and solutions towards charting a roadmap for philanthropy and impact investing in the South Asian region.’. Founder Doug Miller’s aversion to inaction charged the summit, which hosted over 70 speakers over 27 sessions, a variety of panel discussions, keynote speeches, workshops and ‘fireside chats’. The agenda is also interspersed with networking opportunities, encouraging an ongoing dialogue between speeches, to expand the AVPN ecosystem, with over 600 members across 33 markets and its own academy dedicated to teaching skills in impact investment.

In the wake of environmental disasters that struck the region over the past year, the 2023 summit featured panel discussions on climate resilience and energy transitions in South Asia. Speakers such as Prerana Langa of Aga Khan Agency for Habitat India, developing network based models for disaster risk reduction and biodiversity conservation, spoke particularly to this year’s floods and industrial accidents in Bangladesh, bringing investors into contact with means of making effective impact.

Read more: Cyrill Gutsch on saving the oceans through art and collaboration

A panel discussion dedicated to ‘Bridging the Borders’ and ‘Global Perspectives’ brings as one of the speakers Sanjay Gujral of Everstone Capital, a private equity firm investing across the South Asian landscape, further engaging investment in a cross cultural design. Indian cricket legend Sunil Gavaskar also spoke about finding purpose in philanthropy.

The conference equally addressed gender gaps and supporting women within the economy through talks on gender lens investing, furthered by AVPN’s Asia Gender Network, backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which seeks to advance equality through representation in leadership positions, economic empowerment and education, just to name a few.

Through a multiplicity of sectors and regions, the South Asian Summit is driving a collective effort in sustainable development and in centralising fringe communities in the discussion. The phrase ‘catalytic platforms’ is often thrown around, and yet could not be more apt in such dynamic conversations taking place. The Summit, through the focused involvement of leaders in their fields, is set to catalyse significant change in important and evolving areas. – Olivia Cavigioli

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Reading time: 5 min
urban park

Manfredi Catella, CEO of COIMA and president of the Riccardo Catella Foundation

Manfredi Catella is the CEO of COIMA, the real estate company behind Porta Nuova in Milan, one of the most important real estate developments in Europe. He is also president of the Riccardo Catella Foundation which aims to promote sustainable and responsible urban development by improving and animating public spaces. Here, Catella discusses transforming urban environments, mixing business with philanthropy and how technology advances sustainability efforts

LUX: The Riccardo Catella Foundation has had an interest in promoting sustainability long before sustainability became a buzzword, how did this come about?
Manfredi Catella: The Riccardo Catella Foundation was established in 2005 in honour of my father, the entrepreneur Riccardo Catella. At the time, not many entities were focused on promoting ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance), or impact indicators in investments, and we felt it could be our contribution to set up a non-profit organisation committed to promoting sustainable territorial development. We also have the ambition to educate communities about the effects of climate change and what actions need to be taken to fight and prevent this phenomenon. We do this through a citizen engagement program of civic-cultural projects within the realm of green and public spaces in the city of Milan. We believe it is important to listen to citizens in order to understand their vision for the urban space surrounding their homes and integrate programs and services that can improve their quality of daily life.

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LUX: What is the most exciting philanthropic project you are currently working on and why?
Manfredi Catella: At the moment, the philanthropic project where we are dedicating a lot of our energy to is The Riccardo Catella Foundation’s management of Milan’s third largest park, BAM (Biblioteca degli Alberi Milano), which we undertook together with COIMA on behalf of the Municipality of Milan. It is the first public private partnership in Italy that allows a private foundation to manage such a vast public and green space in the city centre. The 10 hectares of the botanical garden, which was developed by COIMA as part of its Porta Nuova development, is a ground-breaking project that aims to involve companies, non-profit sector, and citizens (BAMFriends) in the management of a public area. In addition, we animate the park through a cultural program based on four pillars: open-air culture, education, wellness and nature.

urban park

BAM (Biblioteca degli Alberi Milano) is Milan’s third largest park, managed by The Riccardo Catella Foundation

Ensuring the safety of the local community in the outside spaces has been particularly important since the start of the pandemic. We have been increasing services to enable greater green mobility over the past year. The changes are visible to park visitors. In outdoor areas, new bike racks have been set up, with information on anti Covid-19 measures, sanitising gel dispensers and continuous sanitisation services for floors, children’s playgrounds and communal areas. Safety is the starting point for a series of inclusive initiatives such as Wi-Fi enhancement and the launch of the Porta Nuova Milano app, which is designed to book events and services in the area.

LUX: Please explain your workings in neighbourhood community management?
Manfredi Catella: COIMA believes that the only way for the built environment to help fight climate change and to promote diversity is to integrate them into the basic economic, social and environmental model of every real estate development and by setting measurable objectives and transparently reporting on those objectives. We believe in placing nature and humans at the centre of all real estate development and urban regeneration schemes. In Porta Nuova, we have created a thriving urban environment that enables constant interaction between nature and architecture. There are walkways, green spaces, and piazzas with spaces created for exercise, relaxation, and socialising, all of which welcomes 10 million people every year. It includes Biblioteca Degli Alberi Milano (BAM), an innovative urban park and botanical garden, which plays host to a diverse programme of cultural events and activities for residents, workers, and visitors alike.

Read more: Michelin-starred high altitude dining in Andermatt

LUX: Why do you think it is important to mix business with philanthropy?
Manfredi Catella: In general, the corporate approach to philanthropy has really evolved, and over the last ten years in particular, there has been a shift towards a model of collaboration and sustainable, long-term initiatives. It is important to mix business with philanthropy because corporations have a highly influential role on the social and natural world in which we live. It is also important as sustainable business models have a strong track record of delivering superior returns. Corporate philanthropy is no longer about simply giving money and walking away. By using the skills, tools, and approach of our business, we can continuously monitor the impact of our work and ensure it is having the best possible outcome for those who need it.

The pandemic has highlighted the fragile nature of our world and we believe that business has a duty to create positive change and a sustainable future as we recovery economically from Covid. This led us to establish the COIMA ESG City Impact Fund in 2020; an investment fund focused on sustainable urban regeneration. We aim to use this fund to redesign new physical and social models for housing, tourism and urban regeneration of neighbourhoods and believe that sustainable real estate can play a central role in a post Covid recovery. As responsible managers of institutional capitol from all over the world, we believe can help shape the future.


Bosco Verticale was designed by Boeri Studio, and built and managed by COIMA as part of the  Porta Nuova development

LUX: Apart from sustainability projects, are there any other philanthropic causes you have a particular interest in?
Manfredi Catella: Since 2018, we have been promoting an important social inclusion project through the Riccardo Catella Foundation, together with the Dynamo Camp association, called the Porta Nuova Smart Camp. It is an inclusive and innovative project for children both with and without serious pathologies and disabilities. Nature, sustainable architecture, and technological innovation are topics at the centre of the camp’s activities, along with incorporating the values of the Foundation and the community of COIMA’s Porta Nuova development.

LUX: How has working closely with local communities over the last 10 years changed your outlook on real estate development?
Manfredi Catella: We are recognised as a sustainable real estate company because it has long been our goal to create projects with a strong positive social and environmental impact on its community. The past year has reaffirmed that we all need to continue conducting our business and investing in a responsible way. The past ten years has taught us that it is essential to always look at the bigger picture. For us, this means that we look at a neighbourhood scale instead of a single building. By doing this, we can effectively redevelop urban spaces and provide a selection of amenities to better serve a variety of city users. For example, the COIMA ESG City Impact Fund has just acquired the railway yard of Porta Romana in Milan, together with Covivio and Prada, and we are very excited about exploring this neighbourhood scale development.

Read more: Alia Al-Senussi on art as a catalyst for change

Through our passion and experience, we have also developed our own sustainable vision called COIMA Roots which focuses on driving sustainable, economic, and social performance across our developments. COIMA Roots has been created in line with our belief that humans and nature should sit at the heart of all urban regeneration and development. To accomplish this, our set of values, or roots, are nature, beauty, affordability, human, happiness, ethics, service, and knowledge.

LUX: What were your principal goals when creating the Riccardo Catella Foundation?
Manfredi Catella: When we started the Riccardo Catella Foundation, our goal was to actively support the local economy and to promote the culture of sustainability and innovation in territorial development. We also wanted to make sure we were improving the quality of urban life and public green spaces through the foundation’s cultural projects. I feel that the challenge to create a place of nature, inclusion and growth in the heart of the city at the BAM park will be one of our challenges over the coming years. We are working to create a park that engages the community through a rich cultural programme inspired by sustainability but at the same time would like to create a sustainable business model that could be replicable for other parks in other cities around the world.

street art

A street art project at BAM in Milan

LUX: The Riccardo Catella Foundation has been around for almost 15 years. What has been the most significant change in sustainability during this time?
Manfredi Catella: Two main drivers: awareness and technology. When we began the foundation, sustainability and climate change was not a common topic as it is today. In recent years, we have witnessed a major shift and an increased awareness and now all players, from the public administrations to corporate to citizens, are recognising the need for urgent concrete action. Also, today, we have technological solutions that before were not available and it is fundamental to stay at the forefront of these technologies to continue to push the bar in integrating these solutions in development.

LUX: Which regeneration projects by others have particularly impressed or even inspired your philanthropic efforts?
Manfredi Catella: When we began working on the proposal for the management of BAM, we visited many parks around the world, including The High Line in New York and Millennium Park in Chicago. Then we worked on creating our own interpretation that would integrate well into the city of Milan.

LUX: Is there a major difference in approach between European, Asian and American organisations involved in philanthropic urban regeneration programmes?
Manfredi Catella: Across Europe, philanthropic engagement is an integral part of corporate social responsibility and reinforces related strategies. More and more companies of all sizes are dedicating financial resources, products, knowledge, and time to the common good. The world of philanthropy is renewing itself and dated foundations are starting to make way for a new approach to charity that incorporates social purpose and sustainability through impact investing. We believe that impact investing will become mainstream and that the positive environmental and social contribution will be integrated into traditional investments. We are dedicated and are working actively in that direction.

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Reading time: 8 min
public gardens by residential towers
Tree sculpture

Conrad Shawcross’s sculpture Bicameral at the pedestrian entrance to Chelsea Barracks.

Chelsea Barracks has already established itself as one of the most desirable places to live in London. Its gardens, with their planting schemes, public artworks and open access, are adding to the city’s continuing and defining history of garden squares, as Anna Tyzack reports

There are many measures by which London could be said to be the greatest city in the world. It is a (possibly the) financial and business hub; a crossroads between the Americas, Europe and Asia; a cultural centre that combines 2,000 years of history with being on the world’s leading edge in creativity in the 21st century.

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It is also the world’s most liveable great city. Yes, there are surveys published in trendy publications each year that tout the virtues of earthy locations in crispy-clean countries. But successful, ambitious humans want to live and work in a place where they can be surrounded by their peers: to be right in the heart of a city teeming with global leaders in finance, the arts, creativity, science, philanthropy and international trade. And yet they also crave a standard of living. Their villa on Cap Ferrat for summer and lodge in Aspen for winter have infinite light, space, nature; and London is the only city of its level in the world that can offer these semblances of space and green alongside its myriad other draws. London is the greenest city in Europe: almost 50 per cent of its surface area is parks, gardens, natural habitats or water.

In the most authoritative measure of its kind, London and New York regularly swap places at number 1 and number 2 slots in the Knight Frank Wealth Report Global Cities Index: but for the ‘lifestyle’ subsection, London is, in 2020, at the top.

Leafy walkway along a building

Bourne Walk at Chelsea Barracks

One unique aspect of London lifestyle is its garden squares. They developed naturally as spaces for inhabitants to relax and play as the city grew; became protected in law; and now many of them are the most desirable addresses in the city. Garden squares in London can be public (run by the local councils) or private (owned and used by the local landowners); the best are hives of culture, leisure and joy.

And now there is a new crop of squares coming to life. Uniquely, they are in central London, an area not known for its propensity to be developed. They are the creation of Chelsea Barracks, a new super-luxe five-hectare residential area built between super-prime neighbourhoods Chelsea and Belgravia on the site of what was for 150 years an army barracks.

Read more: In conversation with ballet dancer Sergei Polunin 

It is also unique in its concept and ambition. Rather than build yet another cookie-cutter set of branded residences inside an enclosed compound, sell them off and take the money, owner Qatari Diar is in for the long term: the aim is to create a new neighbourhood, not just for those fortunate enough to afford the residences lining the new streets, but to welcome anyone who is drawn in by the beautiful and distinctive urban planning.

And the squares. There are two hectares of garden squares and public spaces, open to all, in the development: in all, seven new squares are being created. The idea is that residents can enjoy them permanently, and through an artfully curated cultural programme, visitors can pass through, linger and enjoy the first, and last, new area on this scale likely to be developed in central London for, well, probably ever.

Residential building

Whistler Square is named after the artist James Abbott McNeill Whistler who once lived in Belgravia

They are also very much not a recreation or pastiche of existing garden squares. “Our gardens are very different from the traditional idea of railings around a set of trees and a lawn – we didn’t want rules or hostile architecture giving any sense that people were being segregated,” says Richard Oakes, Qatari Diar’s Chief Sales & Marketing Officer Europe & Americas. “Given we were working on what is going to be the most exclusive addresses in London, we had to find a new way of considering what is a garden square.”

This takes a delicate balancing act. The open spaces at Chelsea Barracks (which amount to a lot more than just garden squares) are aimed at attracting visitors and establishing the area as a cultural hub; while residents still feel a sense of exclusivity.

Read more: Van Cleef & Arpels CEO Nicolas Bos on the poetry of jewellery

The landscaping is contemporary in style, while referencing the traditional garden square, with water features to bring a sense of calm and tranquillity and bulbs and flowering trees such as magnolia to add colour and structure throughout the seasons. The red Chelsea Barracks rose, inspired by the intricate petal-shaped window in the restored Garrison Chapel, and cultivated for Chelsea Barracks by grower Philip Harkness, features prominently in the planting. “The gardens provide a spectacular new front door for Chelsea Flower Show, which takes place next door, at the Royal Hospital,” Oakes says.

public green spaces

public gardens by residential towers

Here and above: Mulberry Square’s garden planted with lavender, rosemary and strawberries

In Mulberry Square, for example, residents overlook a shallow water rill and a fragrant garden planted with lavender, rosemary and strawberries, a tribute to the patterned canvases of artist Bridget Riley. Here there are benches to sit on with a book or to enjoy a peaceful moment listening to the sound of the water.

Read more: How Gaggenau is innovating the ancient art of steam cooking

Meanwhile Whistler Square, in the northern part of the Barracks, is named after the artist, James Abbott McNeill Whistler, who lived in Belgravia and Old Chelsea. It has as its focal point a bronze-edged Cumbrian black-slate scrim, no deeper than a finger nail, decorated with fragile etched lines to represent the lost rivers of London.

But culture, as much as gardens, is at the heart of the development. Garrison Chapel, which forms the centrepiece of the development, is a restored, listed and significant historical structure. It has been painstakingly restored by a host of British artisans including lime plasterers, fresco artists and stained-glass experts and will once again be a place for locals to gather. The new bell, an exact replica of the damaged original, was commissioned from Britain’s last surviving bell maker, John Taylor & Co of Loughborough.

Strikingly positioned, it will be the centre of an art and culture programme, which will spill out into the squares and spaces. It will involve performance art and installation as well as static art, with a focus on giving young and emerging artists a bedrock in the centre of London, an area for so long dominated by art dealers rather than artists. Striking also is the focus away from just retail: life, space and culture, rather than transaction, is what this new area aims to be about.

Public artwork at Chelsea Barracks

A tree-like sculpture by Conrad Shawcross is the first public artwork to be installed at Chelsea Barracks. Casting dappled shade onto Dove Place, the pedestrian entrance to the development, Bicameral comprises 693 components and stands 8m in height. It can be  seen, as Shawcross explains, as an Arcadian symbol for reason, humanity, rationalism, progress and hope, and it was designed to pay homage to the craftsmanship found at the Barracks. The sculpture was created entirely without welding; its interlocking forms are held together by techniques derived from Japanese wood joinery.

Chelsea Barracks in numbers

  • Apartments in Chelsea Barracks cost from £5.25 million.
  • Townhouses, each with a roof terrace, spa with pool, gym, garden and private garage, cost from £38 million.
  • The Garrison Club is for the exclusive use of residents. With all the advantages of a private club, amenities include a 1,800 sq m spa and gym; private cinema, games room, residents’ lounge and business suite with two boardrooms.

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This article was originally published in the Summer 2020 Issue.

Reading time: 6 min
Private tropical beach with sun loungers and palm trees
Private tropical beach with sun loungers and palm trees

The beach at the Rosewood Baha Mar

Baha Mar is the latest and most prestigious resort to open in the Bahamas. With three leading hotel brands and all the residential lifestyle amenities you could wish for, you may be tempted to move there permanently, says Jenny Southan

Said to have the clearest sea water in the world, the 700-island archipelago of the Bahamas has long been a glittery bolthole for holidaymakers and expats looking for a luxurious paradise to make their home, even if only temporarily. Part of its allure can be put down to its association with James Bond, whose escapades often took him to these parts. Scenes in Casino Royale, for example, were shot on New Providence Island, where the capital Nassau is located, and where non-stop BA flights from London touchdown along with services from the US.

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Life in the Bahamas (just 55 miles east of Florida and one of the oldest members of the British Commonwealth) is rich with ways to spend your time, be it strolling along the pink sands of Harbour Island, watching flamingos at West Side National Park on Andros, or viewing Long Island’s blue hole, one of the deepest on Earth. Activities range from diving and sailing to bone-fishing and swimming with pigs on Big Major Cay. With a year-round outdoor swimming climate, the islands are perfect for whiling away the endless days of summer, winter and everything in between.

The desirability of New Providence as a destination has been enhanced by a new resort, Baha Mar, on Cable Beach. Costing US$4.2 billion, it made its debut in 2017 with the opening of the Baha Mar Casino (the largest in the Caribbean, with 119 gaming tables, high-limit betting and private gaming rooms), the 18-hole Jack Nicklaus-designed Royal Blue Golf Course, a flagship ESPA spa with 24 treatment rooms, and the Racquet Club Baha Mar. Also there are the Baha Mar Convention, Arts & Entertainment Centre and the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar hotel, and beyond the show lakes and fountains, you will discover 30 designer boutiques, with brands such as Rolex, Bulgari, Hublot and Chopard.

Exterior of luxury beach-front hotel with pink facade

The exterior of the SLS Baha Mar hotel

With direct access to a kilometre-long white sandy beach, the 299-room SLS Baha Mar opened soon after in November 2017, while spring 2018 saw the unveiling of the 237-room Rosewood. There are fully serviced one- to six-bedroom oceanfront residences and villas from $705,000 at the SLS and from just below $1m at Rosewood. For UK citizens looking to buy property, Baha Mar provides enticing new options in this long-standing tax haven, with no income tax charged to residents no matter where in the world they earn their money. Once you own a house or apartment valued at more than $750,000, you are eligible to apply for permanent residency, and for anyone investing in excess of $1.5m, their application may be expedited.

Interiors of a contemporary bar with sofa seating and indoor plants

The Monkey Bar at SLS

The jet-set lifestyle of Baha Mar is easily enjoyed. The SLS Baha Mar, which is operated by US hospitality group sbe, has become a popular hotspot for entertaining. In addition to Mediterranean restaurant Cleo and trendy Monkey Bar, there is Privilege for upscale pool parties, rooftop lounge Skybar (the only one in Nassau), modern Japanese restaurant Katsuya, Fi’lia by the James Beard award-winning chef Michael Schwartz, and nightclub Bond, conceived by rock singer Lenny Kravitz’s Kravitz Design. Carna for steaks is coming soon.

Read more: Ultra-luxury development One Monte-Carlo opens in Monaco

The new Rosewood, meanwhile, has farm-to-table London-style brasserie Commonwealth and its exclusive Rum Room; and Costa, which features pavilions surrounded by water and a menu of seafood and meat dishes with a Latin American twist. In addition is The Library where a Bahamian-style afternoon tea is served. The heavenly Manor Bar features design inspired by a yacht interior – all dark polished woods and blue velvets.

Luxury hotel lobby with contemporary furnishings

The Living Room at Rosewood Baha Mar

The design of the property itself is reminiscent of a Bahamian island estate home, with white weatherboarding, tropical gardens and verandas. And to ensure the stresses of work are smoothed away, Sense, a Rosewood spa, has created treatments based on ancient Bahamian rituals using local plants such as lignum vitae, moringa leaf, cassava and neem tree.

For those interested in a base on the island, Rosewood has one- to three-bedroom residences (from $995,000) with private concierge and butler services, plus four-to six-bedroom beachfront villas with their own pool (from $6.4m to $25m). Buyers at Rosewood and SLS are eligible to apply for permanent residence status. Dependent on nationality, buyers may be entitled to tax benefits including capital gains and income tax exemptions.

Owners of the residences at SLS and Rosewood enjoy access to the members-only Nexus Club (with its champagne bar, pool with day beds, private gaming and cigar bar) plus the 65m (213ft) super yacht Eternity, on which they can cruise the archipelago or visit Baha Mar’s own 15-acre private island, Long Cay. Staffed by Rosewood and available for private hire, this is where sybarites can relax in a hammock on the beach with a glass of rum. Life doesn’t get any better than this.

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This article was first published in the Winter 19 Issue.

Reading time: 4 min
Luxury apartment interiors decorated in neutral colours with wooden floors
Render of a luxury apartment in Monaco

The apartments boast spectacular views over the square and the ocean

LUX travelled to Monaco for the opening of One Monte-Carlo, the swankiest residential and retail development, in the most expensive location in Europe.

Clear blue skies, champagne poured out of magnums at breakfast time, real fur aplenty, and new flagship stores for the likes of Louis Vuitton and Céline. It can only be Monte-Carlo, and to be precise, it can only be the opening of One Monte-Carlo, a staggeringly opulent new development in the very heart of the principality, incorporating 37 apartments and dozens of fashion and luxury stores in what a property developer would call an ultra prime location.

The Monaco royal family officially open the luxury development One Monte Carlo

Prince Albert II,Princesse Charlene, Prince Hereditaire Jacques and Princesse Gabriella at the inauguration of One Monte Carlo

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You may know Casino Square from its starring role in the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix and various movies, or because you park your Ferrari F 512M there when you visit the casino; now in a field of architecture engineering, it also boasts this rather beautiful development, next to the Hotel de Paris, designed by (Lord) Richard Rogers in an organic and eco-friendly style, anchored almost physically by the new Vuitton flagship.

CGI image of luxury residential development in Monaco

Luxury apartment interiors decorated in neutral colours with wooden floors

With architecture by Richard Rogers and interior design by Bruno Moinard, One Monte Carlo houses 37 luxury apartments and dozens of retail stores

The apartments themselves are designed by the estimable Bruno Moinard, who works closely with both LVMH Chairman Bernard Arnault and Kering founder Francois Pinault, personally. Interestingly, the apartments are only available for long-term rental not purchase. More than half have already been rented for the next 12 months, with some lucky residents paying more than €2 million a year. For les happy few, there is no better location in Monaco, or possibly Europe.

Darius Sanai

Reading time: 1 min
Smart contemporary lobby area with cream sofas and modern light fitting
Grand entrance way with footman, pillars and arch with stairs leading into luxury devleopment

The Buckingham Gate entrance at Northacre’s No.1 Palace Street development

Luxury real estate developer Northacre was founded in 1977 by German architect Klas Nilsson. Owner of The Lancasters, a luxe development of 77 apartments in Bayswater, the company is currently developing No. 1 Palace Street, a Grade II listed building featuring 72 apartments overlooking Buckingham Palace’s Gardens and The Broadway in Westminster, which will be composed of six residential towers framed around a 20,000sq ft public thoroughfare and pedestrianised piazza. LUX Associate Editor Kitty Harris speaks to CEO Niccolò Barattieri di San Pietro about Brexit, millennials and the importance of understanding your customer
Headshot of business man wearing a blue suit jacket and white shirt

Niccolò Barattieri di San Pietro

LUX: Northacre provides management, interior architecture and design services. How do all of these components work together?
Niccolò Barattieri di San Pietro: How would it function without it is the question. I am always surprised to see other developers that don’t have an interior designer or architectural arm in-house because ultimately, what are we selling? Hopefully, beautiful apartments that people want to live in, and hence you have to create the emotional attachment between what you do and what they’re buying because without it you don’t create a premium. For us, the central part of our DNA is the design. Northacre is the only development firm in central London that was started by an architect. Klas Nilsson started Northacre roughly 30 years ago – he was a pioneer in space and an architect hence design has been at the core of what we do and not an add on. It’s a 360 degree holistic approach to developing.

LUX: Do you think there are irresponsible and responsible developers?
Niccolò Barattieri di San Pietro: You know I don’t know if it is about being responsible or irresponsible, I think there is a naivety and short-sightedness in cutting corners. The most important thing that Northacre has is its track record, doing the same thing thirty years in a row and doing it successfully. And so it would be very short-sighted to CGI and erase buildings in front of ours in order to make ours a better view because it takes a client to visit once and then you’ve lost them forever.

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LUX: Do you have repeat customers?
Niccolò Barattieri di San Pietro: Absolutely, we have quite a few. We’ve probably sold close to 700 homes in central London in the high-end space. At the moment there are 330 transactions about the five million pound mark of which we have sold a decent percentage. One client of ours, who until very recently still lived in our show apartment at Kings Chelsea, subsequently bought another house in Kings Chelsea and he had bought 13 apartments at The Lancasters. He’s bought four more of ours at Park Street, and hopefully he will buy some at The Broadway too. He is a repeat customer, I think like many others, for several reasons. One is that he loves the homes, which I think is the crucial part of it. And secondly, the properties have done incredibly well investment wise.

If you look, for example, at The Lancasters, when we were doing bank evaluations they were saying no way would you be able to sell £1700 a square ft. because the area is at best £1000. A 70% premium is a damn good premium. But when we got it financed, the average sale price at the end was £2850. So yes, the market might have moved, but not from £1000 to about £2850 in the space of about 4 years. Even if it had doubled, it would be at £2000. So clients realised that we have quite a resilient product and in fact, the gentlemen that bought all of the developments I mentioned, decided he wanted to sell one at the beginning of this year. He was an early buyer, he bought in 2015, which we could argue was probably the peak of the market, he made 109% (£700,000) net return on his 10% deposit and it wasn’t on a small apartment in a market that’s gone down.

Smart contemporary lobby area with cream sofas and modern light fitting

The lobby in The Broadway – a current development by Northacre

LUX: Which is your keenest market area and are you selling more now to millennial generations?
Niccolò Barattieri di San Pietro: Our markets really depend on the development because certain things that appeal to one kind of nationality do not appeal to another. Take two examples, No. 1 Palace Street and The Broadway. We retained the 1870s façade at No. 1 Palace Street, which overlooks the gardens at Buckingham Palace, but stripped the building completely so it is entirely new inside. The Asian market doesn’t see this as new and they don’t like older buildings so I would say that the largest group of buyers in that development are from the Middle East. Monarchy is very big there, they love it, and so you can see the different points of affinity between them.

When we bought The Broadway, we thought that it would be perfect for the Chinese market and for the Asian market in general because it was one of the very few mixed new build schemes where you are able to create a destination in central London of its size. It’s 1.7 acres and 268 units with all the amenities, and it has four world heritage sites around it. The mix of these two and its fantastic views resonates very well with them.

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Where do I start with millennials…they think very differently. We’ve found that millennials are actually very asset light. They love experiences, and they don’t want to be necessarily burdened by having a big asset whilst they could be travelling and creating experiences. And so we haven’t targeted them especially. We will be putting out a property that will resonate with millennials very soon, but it is a different beast completely and so we are looking to target that in a completely different way.

LUX: How do Northacre approach developing?
Niccolò Barattieri di San Pietro: Ultimately, we want to create an emotional attachment by making our buyers understand that we understand them. And I know it sounds like the ABCs of any company, i.e. understanding your customer, but look at some of the developments around you, it’s clear that the developer doesn’t understand their end customer. The reason is that there are a lot of improvised high-end residential developers because asset prices went up and high-end residential was the best use of these assets. They became high-end residential developers overnight and they don’t realise that it’s not an easy task. Hence they don’t deliver what buyers necessarily want. By understanding your clients, and knowing that real luxury to them is spending time with loved ones, we deliver something that creates an emotional attachment, enabling them at the same time, through in-house services, to focus on what they should be focusing on.

contemporary style bedroom with bathtub in the background

A master bedroom in The Broadway development

LUX: What makes The Broadway different to the other developments?
Niccolò Barattieri di San Pietro:  The Broadway is a very challenging project; very few developers have ever delivered 268 high-end units in prime central London. But also it’s different in that it’s the first real mix-used scheme of high-end residential development in central London and many other cities. We believe this is the direction developing is going take, because you have got to create a sense of place that goes beyond the location itself. It’s important to control the types of shops and coffee shops on the site for the kind of buyer we attract. It’s also very important for the surrounding community because you are curating in an unexpected way by not putting generic shops in. Pret and Boots are fantastic, but we’ve seen enough of them. We are in a position to control that, which other developers can’t if it is just residential.

LUX: And how do you decide what locations to build on?
Niccolò Barattieri di San Pietro: The formula of Northacre hasn’t changed in the last 30 years. If you took a map of London and plotted all the Northacre developments by the year they were created, which is very important because areas change, you will see that the formula has always been the same. We develop in areas that are very central or very close to, but not in ‘the’ centre. We create a product that is better than anything else in that particular area, and then we play the price conversion. For example, No. 1 Palace Street: one would say ‘how absolutely fantastic to overlook Buckingham Place, but it would be nicer on the Mayfair side of Buckingham Palace’. Yes it would be, but on that side it was £6000/ 7000 per square ft. and this area is at £2000 and so we could push prices to £3000-4000. You need to understand the macro and micro of areas and of buildings themselves because it needs to become an aspirational building. The Lancaster was 140 metres of 1870s odd, white stucco façade overlooking Hyde Park. How many assets are there like that in London? Hardly any. How many times can you buy a whole block of 5 different architectural styles all in one next to Buckingham Palace like at No. 1 Palace Street? You can’t. So the fact that these buildings enable you to create an aspirational product, create additional value as well.

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LUX: Do you think that phrase ‘re-defining luxury’ is dead?
Niccolò Barattieri di San Pietro: I never really understood the phrase to tell you the truth. For the simple reason that it might not be luxury to you, and it might not be luxury to me. Luxury is personal. For Millennials, like my son who is 16, ownership of an object is absolutely irrelevant. I said to him a few years ago: ‘When you turn 18 I will give you my watch’. ‘Why do I need a watch?’ was his response. Whereas if I gave him £10,000 for an incredible trip somewhere he would love it. So I’ve never been a fan of that phrase. I think you have to strike an emotional cord with people because that, to me, is how you convey luxury. Look at the things that the wealthy collect like art – how personal is art! You might love a painting I might not like it. Vintage wines too. All things are that are personal and rare –  you cannot have the same that I can have.

Luxury indoor swimming pool with plush sun loungers

The Swimming Pool at No.1 Palace Street – a development by Northacre

LUX: How do you think Brexit will affect the market, if it hasn’t done so already?
Niccolò Barattieri di San Pietro: It will affect it but there are many things that are affecting the market in general. We have to take a step back for a second and consider that from 1994 to 2014 we had twenty years of a booming market. We shouldn’t be too surprised that there is a pause in this market.

And what does Brexit do? First of all we don’t know what Brexit looks like because no one does. We only know it creates three things. Two that are negative and one that is positive. The first one is uncertainty. No one likes uncertainty, and in times of uncertainty asset prices don’t go up and it doesn’t give buyers a sense of urgency. Second, it is creating an opportunity for foreigners because the pound is weaker, which is the positive. However, this also has a negative ramification to it as well. This being that the weak pound gives an excuse to a lot of the foreign work force working in construction to go back home because their countries are booming more than they were before. They are now sending much less money home than they were before because £1 before was €1.40 now it is €1.14 – a very big difference.

If you look at it more granularly though, what I think is really happening is the market has become binary and it goes back to the fact that you have a lot of improvised high-end residential developers that are creating a product that does not actually meet what people really want. And so when someone says ‘the high-end market is down 15% from the peak’, that is a very misleading number because yes, if you take the who aggregate of it, but if you then look at properties that are actually really nicely developed property by a reputable developer that don’t have any compromises to it, there aren’t many and so the developer still has pricing power. It is not because the customer has become poorer all of a sudden, he is just picky, and rightly so because he is spending a lot of money. So the other developers that are developing a product that is not really ticking all of the boxes can’t attract the high-end market because those buyers want to spend their money on the best. They are not interested in something, even if you give them a 20% discount, they will say: ‘But I still don’t like it, it is not that I like it more’ so then they have to start selling to a different kind of market and that’s why the prices drop because the other buyer says, ‘OMG, it is nice and so expensive.’

LUX: What are your future predictions?
Niccolò Barattieri di San Pietro: Did you bring the crystal ball?! We do have to look ahead, I think that there are clear trends in the market in general that have nothing to do with high-end residential. I think high-end residential is going slightly back to basics in the sense that for a long time you had developers that thought that the more expensive the property, the more you have got to put in it. And everything has to be covered up because that is going to give a sense of luxury and how much they have spent. Electronics, big screens everywhere etc. The fact is that high-end people like to turn the switch on and off and the button for fading the light is the most they want to see, right? So we are stripping back the technology to basics. And the sense of luxury really is the beautiful light switch. To touch it there’s a sense of satisfaction, it is bit like a door handle that it is the right length, the right thickness, the right feel, the right weight. We are really focusing on those subtleties.

And then there is nothing wrong with a white wall, because ultimately, for these customers, it’s about the art that they are going to put there. All their friends have nice apartments, they don’t need to go and show it off. But what differentiates them is that they have art that nobody else can have because it is one piece. And so how do you create gallery spaces? How do you create as much wall space as possible? So these are the trends that I see: the pairing back, the few great materials and simplicity, ultimately.

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The other trend is really focusing on the staff of the development, so the concierge, the valet etc. How do you enable them to deliver the service you talk about them delivering? I’ll give you a practical example, when we were doing No.1 Palace Street and I was new at Northacre, I said let’s go and interview all the guys that work at the front desk in our past developments. Let’s learn from them because they are the ones that are in the front line. And it is interesting that they were saying, at the Lancaster they were saying: ‘you know we receive two bags of mail every single day, we receive three racks of dry cleaning every single day. Northacre did not give us enough space to put all of these things, and so we’ve got a few there, a few there, a few there.’ These are things you have to consider.

We are also creating an app, where you will be able to do everything from booking a massage to making sure the car comes up to seeing your service charges to booking a personal trainer, so that everything is done in a very, very simplistic way. That then frees up the time of the guys downstairs and enables them to deliver the best possible service.

LUX: Do you have your favourite residential area in London?
Niccolò Barattieri di San Pietro: Well, I have been living in Chelsea for 21 years now, so that is my neck of the woods. I love it because it feels like a little village, but at the same time, you are 100 metres away from the hustle and bustle and if you have got to get to other central parts of London it is super, super close and it is very close to my office. But there are a lot of exciting places in London, not only where we develop, but also some parts of the East End are super interesting, and I think that how they are attracting tech start-ups is incredibly interesting. And actually the East End is really starting to cater to the millennial generation. Anywhere you go in London houses are very expensive. And so we have to start finding a new model based on how people will be living that also reflects how the millennials think, and that is what we are working on at the moment.

Facade of grand residential building in classical style with columned entrance

According to Niccolò Barattieri di San Pietro, No.1 Palace Street has been Northacre’s most challenging development to date

LUX: What has been the most challenging development for Northacre?
Niccolò Barattieri di San Pietro: No.1 Palace Street without a doubt! It has five architectural styles in one block with a façade retention of about 70% of the original façade with a great tall building in the middle. We had to demolish everything inside and dig down four floors underneath. We are doing a top-down construction approach, where you pour the ground floor slab, and then you start digging down whilst going up at the same time. The façade is not thick at all so it’s scary because you are creating the structure and then you have to tie it all back together. And obviously these façades are delicate.

LUX: Don’t blow!
Niccolò Barattieri di San Pietro: Exactly. When there were high winds last year we were praying a crane didn’t move, because can you imagine? Who is going to go to Westminster and tell them that the façade has come down?

LUX: We hear you are a keen sailor. What’s been your most memorable voyage?
Niccolò Barattieri di San Pietro:  I sailed from the South of France to Hawaii and then from Hawaii to San Francisco. I did about 15,000 miles on a 39 ft. catamaran. The first 2,000 miles I did without a GPS – it was a fantastic trip!

To find out more about Northacre’s past, current and future developments visit:

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