It’s good to have a helicopter and be able to justify why. It’s good to have a lot of hobbies that are related to work. And it’s good to have a job as a hobby.
This is exactly what Marcel Soural, the founder of Trigema and the Chairman of its Board of Directors, succeeded in doing. The development company Trigema closed the covid year with a larger, we can say even double turnover than in previous years, which were also successful. He simply succeeds in what he touches. Behind – as well as ahead of – Marcel Soural is, in addition to housing projects, for instance, the construction of the tallest Czech skyscraper, a wine bar with Kuka arm, a leisure area and a number of projects for the people he supports. And also rebranding the company. It is not easy to afford one’s own housing at current prices so, the supporting of other projects that people can use, is a good way. Especially when you can occasionally take a flight and see the world from a bird’s eye view.
You graduated from the Czech Technical University and have been running a successful development company for many years. Apart from that, you have many other activities. Would you describe yourself as ambitious?
I would rather call it the consciousness of achieving something exceptional and at the same time functional, pleasant and necessary, something that would be beneficial to others. Not to be subject to routine. Change the status quo while improving the world. And one also has to enjoy doing it.
What are Trigema’s main projects now? Nuselská is 100% sold out and the Braník project is 70% sold. You have commenced apartments in Plzeň – Skvrňany and construction of Smíchov Lihovar (Distillery) will start after the summer…
Exactly. The Braník project is already in the finishing phase. We should go through final building approval this autumn. And more than 70% is sold. Our third Plzeň project called Bydlení Skvrňany (Skvrňany Housing) was commenced in the middle of April. The project comprises a total of 203 housing units in seven apartment buildings. And the sale of apartments is to be launched in the first week of June. We certainly expect great interest. Our so far largest project, Smíchov Distillery, with investment costs of around CZK 3.5 billion, has been divided into four stages. It comprises a total of about 600 apartments and 4,500 sq m of non-residential area. The zero stage was commenced in May this year. It is a reconstruction of the listed Varna (Brewhouse), where we will build an exhibition gallery and a café by the end of the year. It will be such a site opener. And the first stage of the construction will be commenced just before the end of the year, with apartments going on sale in the second half of the holidays. And it is also necessary to mention the Fragment project in Karlín, which is currently in the phase of rough structure build.
Since about 2018, you have been working on the Flat Zone project, which you are building with your son after his return from London. How does this project fit into the concept of Trigema?
We have already been collecting data on the residential market in the Czech Republic for 10 years. Especially information about new residential projects. We did that for the need for knowledge of the market and its subsequent cultivation. Three years ago, our data cube was already so big that we decided to earmark a team of specialists into a separate company, Flat Zone. Today, it is a unique aggregator project for all new residential projects in one place.
But there are already companies that collect data from the market…?
You will not find anything similar in the market. Based on set filters, you can get directly to the pages of the respective project from one place. Free of charge. It’s a huge time saver for people looking for new housing. And as a by-product, we offer banks and developers the data analysis at the place and time that the organization needs it in order to provide a first-class service to its clients. This year, we will launch a similar service in Slovakia and then it will be Poland’s turn.
With David Černý, you are behind the Top Tower project. What does ‘Czech Skyscraper’ mean to you?
After meeting David about six years ago when he supplied us with the 12-metre Trifot sculpture for Korzo in Nové Butovice and subsequently significantly contributed to the creation of the currently constructed premium rental housing project Fragment on the border of Karlín and Invalidovna, we founded the joint architectural studio Black n’Arch. This is currently our incubator for new ideas and a slightly different approach to architecture. And one of these projects is the preparation of the Top Tower project in Nové Butovice. The plot, which is located in the immediate vicinity of an underground exit and, moreover, is not burdened by the protection zone of the Prague monument zone or the ban on high-rise buildings, allowed us to come up, on the edge of the Prague 13 panel housing estate, with a building concept that goes beyond standard solutions.
Can you be more specific?
It must be said that although the design looks very non-standard, all its structural elements fulfil the required function. The slender tower will be a co-living centre with about 400 mini-residential units, the smaller building is intended for administration and the ship outside the static functions and the outdoor exhibition gallery also serves as a structure for two lifts transporting visitors to the top of the ship from where they will be provided with an amazing view of the Prague panorama, including the outlook restaurant.
Another activity is the activity of your wife, who is the owner of the Czech Press Photo competition. Apart from the acclaimed photography competition, it also includes a gallery, also in Butovice. You certainly support these activities. Are all these activities the beginning of a family business?
We are the general partner of the Czech Press Photo competition and at the same time of the Czech Photo Centre, a photo gallery in Nové Butovice. Just as we support the Dejvice Theatre, the Zdeněk Svěrák Paraple Centre or other charitable activities. We enjoy doing things that make sense to people, and they don’t have to necessarily be about business.
Apart from Trigema’s flagship projects, you also have a lot of ‘pleasures’ or ‘toys’ (in the best sense of the word). Apart from the above, for instance, the Monínec complex. Why do you own this complex and why these activities? What role does Monínec play in the overall concept of Trigema?
Monínec fits into our long-term strategy of investing in leisure activities. People will have more and more free time available in the future and we want to enable them to spend it with us. That is why 10 years ago, we entered this Central Bohemian complex, from which we are building a year-round sports and leisure complex intended for families with children in summer and winter and for corporate events in the spring and autumn. The current state of investment in Monínec is just the beginning of our long-term vision of what this area should look like.
And what is your hobby?
Hobby? Well, I can tell you one – I have a pilot’s license for a helicopter. And I own a one four-person one. We built this type of small heliport with hangars in Řeporyje. We call it Reporyje International. During take-off and landing, we report directly to the Ruzyně tower.
And what about the Samota project? You’ve had it in your portfolio for some time. There is a plan to expand the ski area, which will serve winter and summer activities… What’s happening to it?
It’s a suburban area situated right on the edge of Železná Ruda and the Šumava National Park. We have been having this project approved for about eight years. After zoning in the NPŠ was completed, there is now hope that we might finally get a building permit. I would give it another two years and see if we can start construction. To give you an idea, this is a complex with roughly double the capacity of the existing Monínec.
You are also behind the Cyberdog robotic winery project. Would you present this project in a broader context, please?
Well, it’s easy to understand! David Černý and I enjoy inventing and especially implementing, projects that no one has implemented here yet. That’s how Cyberdog came about. A robotic wine bar, where the work of a sommelier is performed by the robotic arm Kuka. The whole project is adapted to the shaped parameters of wine bottles from the Dog in Dock winery. This is surprisingly ours, too. We realize the existing production in rented premises in Boršice, however, in the spring, we will commence the construction of a new wine and education complex in the immediate vicinity of the port of the Baťa Canal in Veselí nad Moravou. That is also one of the reasons to have a helicopter. It is almost at the Slovak border.
Most of your personal projects are located in Nové Butovice, where you live with your family. Why Butovice? Do you like it there so much?
Our company’s headquarters are in the Explora building, directly above the Nové Butovice underground station. I don’t like wasting time in my life. Time has the highest value for me. And driving to and from work – and by car – is a classic example of waste. That is why we live in Jinonice. It is eight minutes on foot (five minutes by car) to work or the underground and two minutes to the forest the other way.
You are planning to rebrand the Trigema brand during these months. Who do you work with and what does the re-branding entail?
We have been preparing a brand rebranding in cooperation with the Henceforth agency, namely Jarmila Fryntová, Lenka Kůsová and Paul Matthews for almost a year. Together, we had to delve deep into the company’s history and re-describe our values, corporate goals, our vision and mission in a simple and understandable way. We now have over 250 full-time employees, so we need to have these attributes of corporate culture easily communicable. And the logical part was then to re-define the intention and meaning of the brand, its architecture, personality, tonality and visual concept. The pilot project is the Fragment project. Everything else was released at the end of May for the company’s 27th anniversary.
Trigema primarily closed their business year with a turnover of around CZK 1 billion. Last year, despite the difficult situation with the pandemic, you probably did even better thanks to the sale of apartments. What turnover do you expect for 2020?
This is truly remarkable, because 2020 was the most successful year in the company’s history. A turnover of CZK 1.8 billion, EBITDA CZK 338 million and profit before tax CZK 231 million. And we expect 2021 to be even better.
What are your future plans?
We want to continue to grow and therefore to strengthen our independence. We are a company that decides independently, based on its own visions and the motivation of our team. We have a plethora of plans. We will be pleased to keep you informed about them as we go along.