International fashion designer turned interior decorator John Rocha visited Birmingham yesterday to unveil his plans for his latest project - the city's most expensive ever penthouse.
The #1.65 million apartment will be the jewel in the crown of The Orion Building, a tower of more than 300 flats designed by Ireland-based Rocha (pictured) in collaboration with Crosby Homes and BBLB Architects.
Located opposite the Mailbox, and due for completion in September 2006, the 25th floor penthouse will offer 360-degree views of Birmingham and be equivalent in size to two four-bedroom detached houses.
Rocha, still recovering from London Fashion Week, explained how he became part of the exciting project.
"The managing director of Crosby came to see me in Ireland. He saw work I had done in Dublin and in Liverpool, liked my designs and thought we could make something really special in Birmingham," he said. "I came over here. I loved it. We have been together four years."
Although involved in every aspect of the tower, including the smaller apartments which are already lived in, Rocha has had most input in the penthouse.
"They said to me, 'This is your toy. Do what you want'," he laughed. "We spent as much time on the penthouse as we did the rest of the building put together."
The result, he hopes, will be a simple, beautiful space that leaves room for the owners to inject their own personalities.
"As a designer, you are only successful if people enjoy their home," he explained. "You want people to feel in fashion, but not like they've tried too hard. That applies to all design, whether it's fashion, interior or architecture."
Used to the fast-paced world of fashion, Rocha admitted having the time to refine every last detail of his creation had been refreshing.
"Fashion goes very fast. It's very instant," he said. "As soon as you finish, you feel an anti-climax because no matter how exciting it is, you have to reinvent.
"But, in interior, you do something really special, it lasts a long time."
In other ways, however, 52-year-old Rocha, who was born in Hong Kong to a Chinese mother and Portuguese father, said the restrictions of working on buildings, not people, was a challenge.
"Sometimes I have to be understanding about the constraints," he said. "There's fire regulations, building regulations, costs. It's a compromise. I don't compromise the philosophy but the practicality, I must."
Rocha is a strong advocate of city centre living. So it was fitting that Crosby Homes, who pioneered city living in Birmingham in 1995 with their Brindleyplace development Symphony Court, brought him on board.
He added: "You look at all the great cities - New York, Paris - and people live in the heart of the city. They make it exciting. They put life there.
"Traditionally in Britain, you don't do that. You go home to the suburbs, you put your car in the garage, you go on holiday once a year.
"But it's changing. We're catching up with the rest of the world and I think that's great."
Rocha is also a fan of Birmingham.
"I love Birmingham," he said. "It's great to see a city that has been a sleeping giant coming to life. It's great to see that creative energy. And the Selfridges building, I think is amazing."
Crosby managing Director Keith Pepperdine added: "It's very exciting. No other city in the country can offer a penthouse this size designed by John Rocha."
For more information visit www.thepenthousesuite.co.uk or contact The Orion Building marketing suite on Navigation Street on 0121 643 7944 or Knight Frank on 0121 236 0777.