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Real escape with real estate genius John Hitchcox

MANILA, Philippines - Just when we thought we have seen everything from the metros new glass and steel developments, we are greeted by a sense of shock, a jolt of excitement, and perhaps, a sigh of relief that, finally, the future of our urban real estate will provide a much needed real escape.

In the hands of development dynamic duo Marco Antonio and Robbie Antonio - with the incredible pairing of property mastermind John Hitchcox and global design genius Philippe Starck - the Acqua Iguazu, the fifth of the Century Properties Group's Acqua Properties series, doesn't stop at providing well-designed living spaces, it also provides a space designed to brim with life.

Inspired by the Amazon Rainforest, where the new world wonder Iguazu Falls are located, the Acqua Iguazu is set to merge sustainability, eco-soundness, and community-building in a backdrop that celebrates everyone's innate joie de vivre.

John Hitchcox, co-founder of Yoo, the world's leading property design and marketing company with French design revolutionary Philippe Starck, envisions a 50-story residential skyscraper that will stand as the benchmark to the future of urban living.

Hitchcox, who once founded the Manhattan Loft Corporation which dramatically changed the value and status of loft-style properties in London, is most known for transforming any urban city's most challenging locations into the most desirable addresses in the world.

Meeting Philippe Starck in 1999 - the height of the designer's prolific career - the two pioneered designer properties with Yoo, creating 33 developments in 27 cities. With Hitchcox's real estate Midas touch and Philippe Starck's playful, and universally enjoyable aesthetic, the Century Properties Group must have struck property gold when they sent the Acqua Iguazu to the drawing boards.

The Acqua Iguazu just broke ground recently and is expected to reach completion in 2018.


PHILIPPINE STAR: John Hitchcox is a name synonymous with innovative and inventive real estate developments. What is your process in creating your world-renowned properties?

JOHN HITCHCOX: It's been more of an evolution. I was trying to have a look at it most recently. I am not particularly academic and I'm quite practical, so what I've tried to do all my life is to build things that I'd like to live in, and assumed, perhaps naively or correctly, that other people might like to live in the same. The focus of attention, most of my life, has been on open plan living. It's difficult to use the word community because it has all different connotations and different terms in different cultures. But it is community in all aspects, from high-end clubs to social housing projects, all can exist. I've been focusing on bringing people altogether, partly because it's that creative environment that tends to stimulate progress.

The project we are doing here fits into that category completely. I'm completely agnostic about price or value. It's very much a human project, in as much as we're trying, somehow, to give a lot of attention to the home: to contentment, to peace, to tranquility, to your leisure life, to your family life. I'm very much more interested in the social content. I'm also a bit of an oddball because I'm half a designer and a developer.

Philippe Starck is known to be one of the toughest design mavericks in the industry. How do you see his aesthetic and reputation earn rewards for your new development?

What's been interesting, and these guys (Robbie and Marco) have explored recently is this world of celebrity, and this world of identification and how it has drifted into lifestyle. But Philippe Starck is more than a celebrity. He is the world's number one designer, and the reason is because his thinking is way beyond design.

How much of your developments are design-driven and how much of it is revenue-driven?

I think if I hadn't gone to a creative school, I would probably be a businessman. I sometimes ask myself this question as well. The answer that I give is I love building, I love design, I love traveling. What is luxury? Luxury for me is not new cars, luxury for me is doing new things, thinking new thoughts. For me, luxury is not about having to think about money.

Most of Yoo's noteworthy developments involve transforming the most challenging of urban sites into the city's most viable piece of real estate. In the case of Acqua Iguazu, located near the once notorious, now famous Pasig River, what are the challenges you faced in drawing up such a development?

I've done lots of these, what I call "regeneration projects," and the concept of delivering progress in unlikely areas. I think what Robbie and Marco have got is the vision and it's a pivotal vision, because they're betting so much money on it and it's such a scary decision. On the way through, you get criticized, like, "Oh, I'm never gonna live there!" But look at where they are now. This project's a dazzle, they're going to be a great success. It's going to be a fantastic oasis, a fantastic Eden!

How do you see the Acqua Iguazu changing the urban domestic life in these sky-high settings?

What's lovely about this space is if you want to go read your book and be quiet, you can go into your apartment, which you've chosen from one of these styles, or you can go and mess around with what will be your mates. You know, when people buy into this building they are gonna get to know a lot of new people. You're going to be living with like-minded people. These are the new villages of today. Before, you are born into it, now you choose to live into them. There's a bunch of people, who, like you, will want to live in the same place. Now the question is, do you want to live with them?

With the Acqua Iguazu being your first development in the country, what part of the Philippines did you take inspiration from?

When I think about the Philippines, the Filipinos, they're incredibly good-looking, incredibly nice, gentle, smart, intuitive, service-oriented, they work very hard. No wonder, now you hear stories of the economy growing. Interestingly, of course, you have this infiltration system where they've got every country covered, haven't they? (Laughs) Equally, you've got a country that is challenged by the fact that you haven't got one piece of land mass, you've got weather patterns which are quite extraordinary with the rest of the world. But I'm fascinated how you all get it forward.

How is it to work with the Century Properties Group, particularly Robbie and Marco Antonio?

It's been really interesting because there's so much like-minded thinking going on in the moment, and it's been an enjoyable process. They've been a complete dream to work with, as what the guys in the office have told me to say to you. (Laughs) No, it's gone very, very well. If I was to try to pinpoint the reason, it's because there's a super will to go in that direction. They're very enjoyable to work with, and I've said it ten times already today and I'm afraid you still haven't heard the last of it. (Laughs)

What is the future of development design and how do you see it shifting in the next decade?

First of all, it's absolutely fascinating at the moment! Urbanization has gone over 50 percent, meaning half of the world's population has been living in the urban environment, and that is just going to go straight up to 75 percent in a small period of time. Urban centers will be busy, and it will be forced to go up because infrastructure can't support huge sprawl, and communities like this will be the new norm. Robbie and Marco are ahead of the game.

Source: The Philippine Star | November 24, 2012

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