There are few things as ubiquitous as branding. It features on the clothes we wear, the televisions we watch, the websites we visit – it’s inescapable for all but reclusive tribes living on remote islands.
Despite the pervasiveness of branding, though, it’s only belatedly been associated with buildings. While digital screens and signage have long occupied prime real estate in locations like Times Square, structures themselves have hidden their identities behind inscrutable brick-and-glass facades.
Of course, there are outliers – the identities of buildings such as the Empire State, the Shard, or St. Basil’s Cathedral are large, brands unto themselves.
But, it’s safe to say most dwellings, whether residential or commercial, are purely functional. A reality that has given rise to the branded real estate movement, which seeks to give structures an image and identity of their own.
To turn buildings into living art pieces, reflective of their surroundings and a source of pride for their inhabitants.
Where Art and Architecture Meet
Buildings that make a statement every time a passerby lays eyes on them not only hold their value better than others, but they promote a positive culture on both sides of the threshold.
Occupier demand goes up alongside retention as an emotional connection is forged. Whether it’s a residential apartment complex, an office space or a country pile, the idea is to make buildings as eye-catching as paintings or murals.
LightArt is a major player in the branded real estate market. The brainchild of Israeli entrepreneur Tom John Or-Paz. The startup has been busy revitalizing buildings in Tel Aviv, London, Sofia, Berlin, New York and Tokyo. So how did LightArt see the light of day?
“I was the VP of FashionTV and one afternoon I read a report from Knight Frank about the value of branded real estate and knew right then that I was onto a winner,” says Or-Paz, who grew up in Tel Aviv before moving to the States at eighteen. “After my success with FashionTV, I decided to combine my two loves, real estate and art, to create a winning formula.”
A collective of artists, architects, smart home advisors, interior designers and community advisors, LightArt creates work that is “both perfect in design and structure” according to Or-Paz, who clearly gets a kick out of reinvigorating tired buildings and setting a standard with new developments.
Although LightArt is an independent venture, it often works with construction firms and property managers to add value.
“People have always looked for something extra when purchasing real estate,” Or-Paz acknowledges. “For years the industry has been based on square metres and concrete walls. With the modern world and its changes, people are demanding more, and branded real estate seems to answer that desire. The global epidemic that hit the world this year has also pushed the desire to get more value for money.”
The Dual Roles of the Modern Home
If there’s one thing that’ll help bring the industry into the mainstream, it’s the recent shift towards home working. People are increasingly viewing their home not only as a place of refuge and comfort at the end of a long day, but as a professional environment.
If given a choice between working in an imposing grey building or a characterful modern complex, the vast majority would choose the latter – even more so if it’s where they lay their head at night. And contractors and architects are starting to recognize this.
With many major companies extending their work-from-home initiatives into 2021, and others like Twitter announcing that employees can work from their PJs ‘forever’, what does the future hold for commercial real estate?
“Office space will always be needed in my opinion, however, demand will obviously drop due to the working world evolving,” says Or-Paz.
“Branded real estate in the commercial world will have to revitalize itself and create opportunities and experiences that will actually convince companies to rent and/or purchase office space. Branded real estate is one of the best options to add value to commercial real estate, with the ability to create an experience that helps companies and their employees.”
Of course, designs that might look great on a residential building could fall flat in a commercial unit, if they do not reflect the demographic, for instance.
“Commercial and Residential have different demands and are catered to different markets,” Or-Paz concedes. “However, the common theme in branded real estate is to create added value for a building, giving inhabitants an experience that elevates their living life and work to different levels.”
Futuristic Real Estate
The pandemic is not the only driver for change when it comes to real estate. Technological advancements are also altering the way we see and interact with the physical world around us.
While LightArt makes use of computer-aided design and modeling to achieve its finished products, smart buildings utilize sensor-generated data to regulate systems like heating, ventilation and lighting.
In the real estate business more generally, AI-powered chatbots have been deployed to arrange viewings, facilitate communication between landlord and tenant, generate leads, and sophisticated virtual viewings are becoming commonplace.
With the latter, camera sensors measure spatial depth and distance to produce 3D models prospective buyers can ‘walk through’ with 360° orientation.
In other words, branded real estate is just one element of the industry’s technological transition. We don’t necessarily know what the buildings of the future will look and feel like, but Tom John Or-Paz and his team are banking on a human truth: art never goes out of fashion.
“I have made it my mission to tour buildings and art of all genres in all major cities worldwide,” he says.
“Over the years I’ve amassed an extensive collection of luxury art, but more importantly I have created many friends in the art world who have left a massive impression on me.”
That passion for art is manifested in a recent LightArt project in his native Tel Aviv. “It was actually our first project in Israel. We were approached by the contractors who believed our brand was suited to the building and the area their project was in. We decided to design and envelop the property in Street Art, which blends beautifully into the neighborhood of Florentin. The residents and neighbors have been excited by the project and the interest has been massive due to the brand and its uniqueness.”
If LightArt and projects like it get their way, the nondescript building will be a relic of the past and we’re all the better for it.
Disclaimer: This is a contributed article and should not be taken as investment advice