Business As [Un]usual

At a time when many international firms are hesitant to enter the UK markets, II BY IV DESIGN is expanding their global influence and targeting visionary clients in prime luxury markets.

London’s future has been cast into doubt following the wake of Brexit; newswires and agencies around the globe from the BBC, to the Guardian, from the Harvard Business Review to the Financial Times and even the New York Times express a largely negative sentiment with attention grabbing headlines like “Figuring Out Which Companies and Industries Will Be Most Damaged by Brexit” and “Will London Fall?”

There are more questions than answers at the moment and no solid exit strategy that explicitly addresses the pressing issues of trade, financial costs to separate from the European Union or the ability and rights of the international community to travel and work within a post Brexit Brittan. Faced with this uncertainty, some international businesses are leaving the UK, others are hedging their bets, while many are simply holding to “wait and see.”

The Canada based design studio, II BY IV DESIGN is mitigating the challenges ahead with the immense potential they foresee in the UK market; they are so confident in the opportunities that lie ahead they are expanding their firm’s influence and as of September 2017 opened an office in the fashionable Marylebone district of London.

II BY IV DESIGN Partners, Dan Menchions (left) & Keith Rushbrook (right).
II BY IV DESIGN Partners, Dan Menchions (left) & Keith Rushbrook (right).
Photo credit: Evan Dion

This may seem like unusual move, especially during such an uncertain time for the UK but for II BY IV DESIGN Partners, Dan Menchions and Keith Rushbrook the timing couldn’t be more right.

The design duo who first opened their practice in 1990, in addition to their new London office, operate from three studios: two located in a brick and beam warehouse in Toronto’s Liberty Village and a third amid the hustle and bustle of the Creative District in New York City. They have a solid reputation in North American markets and are the recipients of over 400 design awards that include a growing list of notable European accolades.

II BY IV, London
Kasa Moto, Onyx Sushi Bar. Photo credit: Arnaud Marthouret

Most recently, on October 27th at a gala event held at the Dorchester Hotel in London winners of the 2017 SBID (Society of British and International Design) were revealed where II BY IV DESIGN was recognized as a finalist in the highly competitive Hotel Bedroom & Suites Design category for their work on the staterooms aboard Crystal Cruises’, six-star river-ship, the Crystal Mozart.

Kasa Moto, II BY IV
Kasa Moto, Main Floor Dining. Photo credit: Arnaud Marthouret

The month prior, The Residences of 488 University Avenue were honored for its design and engineering ingenuity at the 2017 ABB LEAF Awards (Leading European Architecture Forum). During a black-tie ceremony held at the Royal Horse Guards Hotel in London, which also celebrated Sir Peter Cook with a Lifetime Achievement Award, II BY IV DESIGN received the Overall Winner of the Year for their work on this project as the best shortlisted entrant across all categories (interior and architecture), and as well were winners of the Interior Design Future award.

Kasa Moto Lounge. Photo credit: Hill Peppard
Kasa Moto Lounge. Photo credit: Hill Peppard

In 2016 the design studio impressively had four projects recognized in the blind-juried SBID awards including two in the Visualization category (LUMINA condominium and the Crystal Bach river-ship) as well as, Kasa Moto in the Restaurants category and finally the Marketing Center for The Residences of 488 University Avenue, Winner of the Show Flats and Development category. In 2015, the first time they entered the same awards programme, II BY IV DESIGN’s, Showroom created for Olympia Tile was honored as a Retail Design finalist.

II BY IV DESIGN, 488 University
The Residences of 488 University Avenue, Ground Floor Public Lobby Rendering. Credit: Norm Li

Time and again II BY IV DESIGN has proven its creative prowess and in turn its ability to attract industry leading clients. Their expertise is reflected in partnerships with notable global brands such as Tishman Speyer, Hines, Four Seasons Hotel and Crystal Cruises; and project collaborations with peers like 3XN Architects, SHoP, Arquitectonica, Core Architects and Daniel Libeskind to name a few.

II BY IV DESIGN, 488 University
The Residences of 488 University Avenue Residential Sky Lobby Rendering. Credit: Norm Li

Building on their recent successes, as well as, long standing alliances with international clients and consultants makes opening an office in London a natural next step. “It is simply good business to not only diversify by sector and client but by country,” notes Rushbrook, “expanding our global presence is a natural evolution and requirement to stay competitive.”

II BY IV DESIGN, 488 University
The Residences of 488 University Avenue, Fitness Amenities Rendering. Credit: Norm Li

Of course another deciding factor is the fact that the UK has the second largest design sector in the world and the largest in Europe. Overall the creative industries contribute £84 billion annually to the UK’s economy with just under half of that to London’s economy alone; furthermore, 816,000 people work in London’s creative economy and are attributed with 15% of the city’s jobs. According to a report published by the DMCS (Department for Media, Culture and Sport) this is almost twice the rate of the wider economy making this sector is one of the fastest growing in the UK.

When asked how Brexit could affect the Architecture and Design sector, the founder and president of the SBID, Dr. Vanessa Brady, OBE spoke positively, “Great Britain is an island with favorable tax rates and an established history; we have great schools and education, are leaders in architecture, fashion and design; London is a cosmopolitan city with much to offer including great nightlife and iconic cultural destinations…overseas investors love coming to London. We are not concerned [with] how Brexit will affect our identity.”

II BY IV DESIGN, Crystal Cruises
Crystal Cruises, Crystal Bach (Rivership) Lobby Rendering. Credit: Norm Li

A similar sentiment is echoed by London and Partners’, Senior Business Development Manager, Ted Edwards “on the whole we’re not seeing a significant decline in appetite to invest in London and we’re confident that London’s fundamental offer remains unchanged, especially for the creative industries.”

II BY IV DESIGN, Crystal Cruises
Crystal Bach (Rivership) Crystal Suite Rendering. Credit: Norm Li

Aligning with Brady’s and Edwards’s comments, EY (Ernst & Young) conducts an annual survey of global investors from around the world, and this year London was reaffirmed as the most attractive European city for foreign investors, despite Brexit. They may be few but a string of companies have announced plans to expand in the UK.

II BY IV DESIGN, Crystal Cruises
Crystal Bach (Rivership) Crystal Suite Rendering. Credit: Norm Li

Qatar recently said it would invest an additional £5bn into UK infrastructure over the next three to five years. (The Qataris have already invested more than £35bn to £40bn in UK markets). The company behind Snapchat has established international headquarters in London, similarly Google has submitted plans to build a new purpose-built 11-storey London headquarters which will be longer than the Shard is tall and Apple’s plans to create new headquarters at London’s Battersea Power plant are well underway.

As the UK creates a new position on the world stage its arts and creative industries will play an important role in shaping the nation’s identity. Businesses like II BY IV DESIGN which are operated by vision and intelligent maneuvering have the potential to thrive.

Menchions and Rushbrook are well aware of the uncertainty that the UK is facing right now, “No one can predict exactly how Brexit will affect the UK but we are confident in London’s history as a global center for design, arts and culture.” Menchions goes on to say, “it is doubtful that overnight the forward thinking attitude that has propelled London to the fore front of the international community will erode.”

The issue of Brexit remains controversial and divisive, at the moment, nothing is certain and there are two sides to the story. When it comes down to it, the only thing that is certain is moving forward business in the UK will be far from usual.