By Oleg K Temple, March 2019
You could be forgiven for thinking that nowadays the vast majority of business is conducted between computers, in an endless stream of precise, albeit apathetic and impersonal data. However, a significant portion of deal-making still endures in the real world, as it requires a human handshake and that was evident at the HOUSE I 2019 Expo. You see, fancy website templates, however well-designed and engineered, are no substitute for the raw human passion and drive—qualities brought in spades to the exhibition hall by the participants. These intrepid sales warriors are the reason why the brick and mortar stores will always endure. And I do mean warriors. Even after long days on their feet, always answering the same questions, each expert we spoke with endeavoured to present their product in the best light, remained courteous and highly enthusiastic.
We were accompanied by Mr Henrik Mjöman of PRIME Recruitment, one of our earliest Members, a master-networker and a veteran of the Baltic business scene.
The exhibition took place at the Kipsala International Exhibition Centre, the largest specialised exhibition complex in the Baltic countries. The event sprawled across two enormous pavilions—one of over 9,000 sq. metres and the other close to 6,000 sq. metres in size, which were occupied by more than 390 companies from nine countries from the construction, energy and interior design industry. We witnessed many imaginative presentations of innovative products and services: from the astronaut at the geothermal energy Siltumsuknis stand, to the fully kitted out chimneysweeps (complete with soot on their faces) of Skurstenmeistari. There were several companies offering roofing tiles, wood-working tools and heaters of all sorts. At the entrance to the indoor exhibition halls some participants presented modern saunas, barbecue installations and Jungheinrich displayed its powerful heavy machinery for construction. It was raining, so we did not linger outside and dove right in.
The atmosphere within the halls was charged with palpable optimism and enthusiasm, as the high-octane event was in full swing. How could it be any other way with so many talented and determined sales people under one roof? It seemed as though they boldly pitted their collective vision and will against the fabric of reality. And those of us observing this epic contest were uncertain about reality’s chances! Virtually everyone we interviewed was professional, courteous and delivered a well-rehearsed pitch about their product. It was fascinating watching these professionals make business happen out of thin air and the power of their will.
We met dozens of professionals, however, unfortunately, we cannot feature everyone we met in this short article. You really need to experience the magnitude of this vibrant event first hand… still, we will now give you a roundup of our favourite exhibits and the stories behind the encounters.
Near the Lithuanian-Latvian border lies the small town of Naujoji Akmenė, which was constructed very recently—in 1952. For the last 20 years of the town’s brief history, it has been home to Eternit Baltic, a prolific producer of fibre-cement tiles and panels for roofing and facades.
Etex, the parent-company behind Eternit Baltic, is a multinational industrial giant, which was founded over a century ago in Belgium. Today, Etex is a dynamic, thriving company with a strong global presence of over 110 factories across 42 countries. It is an umbrella corporation that runs over 100 subdivisions and companies.
Etex is an industry leader in four distinct arenas: lightweight construction, roofs and façades, thermal insulation and fire protection. However, of its four pillars of success, it was the roofs and façades division, represented by Eternit Baltic that was chosen for this year’s expo. What initially drew us to the stand was its imaginative design, as the stand’s walls were adorned with bird houses (which we later found out were created from the light-weight, ultra-durable fibre cement plates Eternit Baltic produces). I told the representative that they could do very well selling these fun constructions as samples of their material to visitors of the exhibition, this way people could test out the product on a miniature house for a couple of years. i.e. potential customers could empirically ascertain that the paint will not grow mould or moss or fade in the sun or crack from moisture, before making the sizeable decision of applying the panelling to their home.
Corrugated sheets are safe roofing material without asbestos, produced from cement, limestone, cellulose, water and PVA, which has substituted asbestos. Fibre cement panels are light-weight, offer great resistance to environmental factors and boast top-notch durability indicators.
Since 2002 the Divine Heat Companyhas flown NIBE’s banner in Latvia. Their range of products includes heat pumps, solar panels and other solutions that save the user money in the long-term and are kind to the environment.
The Divine Heat Company's stand at the exhibition, while small and unassuming, was one of the few showcases we encountered, where visitors were actually queuing for information. We returned to the stand a couple of hours later and still found it under siege. The consultants could barely keep up, unable to even make time for a cup of coffee, as the torrent of young home-owners interested in eco-friendly solutions and long-term energy savings, flowed without letting up for hours on end. It is a pleasure seeing sustainable energy solutions attracting this much attention from people from all strata of society.
From its humble beginnings over 60 years ago in Markaryd, in Sweden, NIBE has grown into an international company with over 15,000 employees and a strong presence on five continents. NIBE is listed as NIBE Industrier AB on the Nasdaq Nordic Large Cap list since 1997, with a secondary listing on the SIX Swiss Exchange since 2011.
The NIBE Group develops, manufactures and markets a wide range of, energy-efficient solutions for climate comfort in all types of indoor habitats and commercial environments. Furthermore, the company manufactures components and solutions for intelligent heating and control in industry and infrastructure. The Group's aim is to continue contributing toward a sustainable society and more efficient utilisation of energy minimising humanity’s carbon footprint on the planet. As the prevailing wisdom goes: there IS no Planet B.
As we forded the turbulent human river, we found ourselves captivated by the bold elegance of a large, multifaceted stand, which seemed to offer everything for the modern home or office. It was remarkable how although the stand was a class-action promotion by a score of prominent interior decoration brands, it was all brought together under the umbrella of one brand: Decco Centrs. The décor of the stand echoed this subtle philosophy perfectly, as the gestalt of the exhibit was not that of an advertisement or even showroom, but looking at it felt like a peek into a stylish, yet cosy home. Items from different shops were arranged seamlessly, without boundaries, allowing them to complement one another rather than compete for attention.
This was a miniaturisation of, perhaps, the most salient principle that permeates the centre’s entire concept: there are no repetitions of ideas. All the shops are of distinctly different specialisation and work togetherin a smooth, mutually beneficial ecosystem, to provide everything the visitor could possibly need to decorate any interior. They do so constructively, by referring clients to one another, not by enticing clients to ignore their neighbours. Ultimately, this makes for a harmonious and enjoyable shopping experience void of conflict and doubt.
At the stand we met an affable young lady, who was keen to tell us all about the newly constructed hub of interior design inspiration. Decco Centrs’ distinct style signature was crafted through the vision and skilful touch of Ms Kristiana Kazarjana Lepse, an accomplished Latvian artist and designer, who has presided over the interior decoration of many sophisticated, large-scale projects including: the Domina Shopping Centre and the Arena Riga.
Decco Centrs was purpose-designed and constructed to become the predominant confluence of leading brands in the theatre of interior planning and design. It spread its wings for the first time in late 2017 and today soars high above the competition, as the largest interior decoration thematic trade centre in the Baltic countries, offering practical and luxury goods for home, office and lifestyle improvement. Its grand showrooms and offices sprawl over an impressive area of close to 14,000 sq. meters and most of the stores have on-site storage facilities. In other words, custom orders aside, almost everything you might wish to buy will be in stock.
Decco Centrs boasts a wide gamut of offerings for every occasion and living area—from intricate fabrics and textiles to ambient light to flooring, furniture and decorative accessories. Each showroom is equipped with a dedicated entrance and panoramic windows, allowing the vendors to display their impressive collections in the natural light.
Prominent brands include:
Laura Ashley (a British company with a remarkable history dating back to its humble inception in the early 1950s. Today the company provides a wide variety of tasteful furnishings and home decorations predominantly in gentle pastel hues.)
Prodex (high-quality doors),
Siena (exquisite wall papers and fabrics),
Henry Moon (Interior design accessories from world-famous brands such as: Villeroy & Boch, Rosenthal, Sambonet, Wedgwood and Yves Delorme),
Nakts Mēbeles (a Latvian bedroom furniture manufacturer of high esteem),
Arens (The largest manufacturer of kitchen furniture in the Baltic States, with over 20 years’ experience. In its 14,000 sq. m Tartu, Estonia Factory, Arens produces around 400 kitchens per month),
KORTE (high-quality worktops for kitchens and bathrooms) and
H&L Studija (a wide selection of tiles from around the Mediterranean coast).
This is just the tip of the iceberg! Visit this bubbling complex of contemporary interior inspiration and explore for yourself.
Easy access (Katlakalna iela 6D) and free parking, as well as a great variety of goods and excellent service—the arch-hallmark of Decco Centrs—are privileges that will put a smile on the face of every client. A café with a rest area is planned for later this year, to further enhance the shopping experience.
As the 33rd consecutive International Building Industry Fair “House I” rolled on, one could easily assume that the exhibition attracts around 10,000 visitors per day, but that perception would be skewed. Passing though reality’s prism, it became clear that the flow of people was far from constant. During the weekend there was a groundswell of personal interest, as a deluge of visitors flooded the fair. Families brought their kids along and spent much more time at the exhibits. It makes sense, of course—during the week people are at work and the expo attracts predominantly bustling professionals on reconnaissance missions, scouting out state-of-the-art innovations for their clients, but the weekend is family time and people come for a leisurely stroll, to expand their minds and find solutions for their homes.
Thank you for reading, Part I of this report ends here. What are your thoughts on design exhibitions we’ve covered and the strides made by the construction industry in general—are you satisfied living in the age of convenience or nostalgic for the good old days ‘when every brick was unique’? There are no wrong answers—don’t be a stranger, share the account of your experiences or your comments on our review in the comment section below. In the second part of this article, we will bring to you our encounters with many more interesting characters and fascinating products—from Flemish lions to grass maintenance robots. —CW
Click HERE to read part 2 of this article!