Andrew Morris, champion of London design shows and venues, plans to expand his empire worldwide, with a series of branded exhibition centres that will provide a wealth of opportunity for the design community.
Morris, who owns London’s Business Design Centre, and last year acquired Earl’s Court and Olympia, says he is looking at exhibition centre locations in the Middle East, Far East, South America and southern Europe. The driving force behind the London Contemporary Art and New Designers fairs, Morris wants to roll out the Earl’s Court and Olympia brand abroad.
As Earl’s Court and Olympia Group chief executive since last October, when he bought the two sites from P&O for £183m, Morris cannot be country-specific. But he confirms a string of international ECO-branded centres could be in place by 2005.
“Plans are at very early stages, and it is too soon to start talking about design work,” he says. “We have a great brand in Earl’s Court and Olympia and are keen to see it perpetuated internationally.”
The Morris Family Group is currently midway through a £60m refurbishment programme of the two London sites – jointly the UK’s biggest exhibition venues after Birmingham’s NEC – and has given Earl’s Court and Olympia separate logos for the first time.
Morris says he sees Olympia as “classical, contemporary and elegant”, while Earl’s Court “projects a more dynamic and macho” image. He claims to be one of the first people in the exhibitions business to employ independent design groups to create a cohesive look for exhibitions.
Communications specialist Turnbull Ripley – formerly Skidmore Turnbull – recently created new identities for Earl’s Court and Olympia. Managing director Mark Turnbull confirms he has not been approached by Morris.
Turnbull says the identities were designed to complement the two London centres, and the challenge for the brand abroad would be to keep it relevant to new, architecturally unrelated buildings. “We created flexible identities so an Earl’s Court in, say, Singapore, could easily feature the London logo,” adds Turnbull.