There is no denying that US Real Estate is a creative property developer through and through. All one has to do is look at the projects it is involved in. Thinking outside the box to a large extent, using people who don’t stay in that box, and always offering something unique to the urban landscape.
Aavo Kokk, Chairman of the Board of US Real Estate, says their thought process when developing projects is based on one simple motto: the first idea is always the wrong idea. After all, the first thought is always the first idea, because following that logic, others will follow. To be special, you have to move on to the next idea, and the next idea. Cook gives the example of architects who have been to a site 20 times to show them a project – it seems embarrassing, but that’s how new and convention-shaking solutions are born. If you look at the Rotermann Quarter, there is nothing ordinary about it.
“Real estate development is like making a film or writing a long article. You collect shards, talk to many, argue fiercely and little by little a vision of pace, colour and focus begins to emerge. Then you start to make a product and there comes a period where a crazy amount is happening all at once and for some it feels like hopeless chaos. But if you have a good script, a director with nerves of steel and a creative team, the result is always something very good,” explains Kokk.
Technocratic creative people
In the highly technocratic world of real estate development, a creative approach to what you do is quite unusual. On the one hand, US Real Estate is staffed by engineers who are highly rational people whose modus operandi is a constant desire to find an ever better solution to an existing problem. On the other are creative people – designers, architects, interior designers – who look at space almost entirely through a visual and aesthetic eye. Who, at the same time, are the most uncompromising and will settle for any good idea. According to Kokk, it is extremely interesting to see how these two poles are brought together in the office he runs.
“Urmas Sõõrumaa must be added to the equation as a third pole. Urmas perceives the world more acutely than many others. He is extremely demanding when it comes to detail and doesn’t let his colleagues sit comfortably. It may seem strange to bring the world of feeling into the real estate business, but the people who will use our properties will feel first and then make sense of their feelings. If the feeling is bad, then we have lost the business. It’s important to go with feelings,” explains Kokk.
A good example is the Patarei Sea Fortress, which US Real Estate has undertaken the difficult but exciting journey of developing. The Sea Fortress has a wealth of historical memories, many of which are not particularly pleasant. In order for the fortress to become a successful (commercial) project, it is necessary to find a number of technical solutions, to cover them all with visually beautiful facades, but above all to find ways to turn these negative memory layers into positive ones, even comfortable for the users. How to do this is the million-euro question.
In search of multitalents
US Real Estate has doubled in size in the last two years and continues to grow, as new large-scale projects, alongside smaller projects, increasingly require skilled experts. So the office door is open to anyone who wants to work in a close-knit and creative environment, often stressful but always valuing everyone’s contribution. However, Kokk adds that they have a strong recruitment focus on multi-talented people who bring something to the office beyond their core competencies.
“For example, an architect who is also a gardening enthusiast. An engineer who keeps bees. A designer who enjoys motorcycling in his spare time. All of these people are absolute experts in their field, but they can also see things from a second, third and even fourth perspective. It’s important for us to have people in the team who can cover several areas at once. We have a long recruitment process because we want to make sure that these people stay with us. I’m a firm believer that in life, you have to not only climb up the ladder, but sometimes you also have to walk the horizontal axis. US Real Estate offers very good opportunities to move between projects within the company, to deal with different projects and problems,” says Kokk.