Gabriel Uzgen (BESIX RED): A New icon in Belval
Interview with Gabriel Uzgen, CEO of BESIX RED, who presents the “Icône” project in Belval and the future of real estate development in the actual context of the health crisis.
What trends do you observe in your industry?
BESIX RED is a pan-European real estate developer with more than 30 years’ experience in the residential, office, retail and service sectors. More than countries, we identify "ambitious" cities characterized by positive economic growth as well as true political and entrepreneurial willpower to improve the ‘live, work and play’-experience of the inhabitants. Over the years, Luxembourg has been demonstrating its agility and continuously reinvented its business model according to new trends and market changes. The challenging times we are facing today has forced us to adopt the same approach: being agile and reinvent the living and workspaces of tomorrow. At the residential level, we are actively rethinking our development programs with a focus on spacious living spaces and outdoor areas. For our future urban residential projects such as FAÏENCERIE in Luxembourg (46,000 sqm residential), DUUO in Lisbon (33,900 sqm residential) and VIRIDIS in Brussels (14,200 sqm residential & offices), we are designing specific areas dedicated to remote work. These will allow the building’s occupants to work from home but in an environment conducive to work with all the necessary equipment available. The general trend of focusing on wellbeing in both residential and office developments today, is taking the quality of these sectors to the next level. In this regard, we aim to obtain WELL-certifications for our future projects.
“One of the main dangers is to let ourselves be guided by a group of health experts instead of taking the future in our hands”
Can you describe the project 'Icône' in a few words?
ICÔNE is a 18,800 sqm smart office development in Belval conceived two years ago with renowned architect Foster + Partners. The design of ICÔNE has been thought from the heart of the building towards the outside, by first designing areas for informal exchanges, which recreate links and reconnect people. We then enclosed them in a transparent architecture that facilitates interaction and emphasizes light and the circulation of occupants. In addition to its social function and optimal digital connectivity (via wi-fi and power supply points in the atrium), ICÔNE responds in every possible way to the new uses required by clients. The spaces have been designed to live and evolve according to the needs of the companies occupying them. By relying on the agility of its surfaces - in other words, sometimes at partial, sometimes at complete capacity - this new-generation building today even more meets the needs of post-COVID-19 tertiary users and has aroused the interest of several tenants. Equipped with the latest technologies in terms of construction and working environment, ICÔNE is a sustainable and innovative building that will obtain a BREEAM Excellent-certificate as well as the WELL-standard, ensuring end-users’ wellbeing.
What risks and opportunities do you identify for the future?
The environment we live in today is often described as a VUCA-world (acronym for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity). Even though most of people may consider COVID-19 as a ‘black swan’ – an event in which they only see risks – this is also a moment to identify opportunities. In this context of uncertainty, one of the main dangers is to let ourselves be guided by a group of health experts instead of taking the future in our hands. We need to reinvent ourselves by accelerating digitalisation, being agile in our developments and optimizing our programs even more according to our clients’ needs. Being part of a strong Group such as BESIX provides us a solid base to continue to fully commit to our clients. In line with our diversification strategy, we keep investing in new developments and search for partnerships in strong socio-economic cities such as Lisbon, Amsterdam, Brussels and Luxembourg. But not without caution. We should arbitrate and analyse more deeply the risks we may face in the future and should ensure good risk management.