Interview with: Creative Director and Partner at Alive, Anton Chernikov

Time to read: 8 minutes

Today we introduce you to Entrepreneur, Artist, and Storyteller, Anton Chernikov. Anton is a creative director and partner at the London-based real estate firm Alive, who builds and operates mixed-use rental housing developments in Central London. They have a growing pipeline of thousands of new homes that will be built over the coming years. He also runs his own consulting business called Exponentials, and has recently launched House of Transformation; a nature-inspired 1,000sqft multi-use event and meeting space in East London. At the heart of Anton’s work is a passion for regenerative design and community-led property development.

Entrepreneur, Artist and Storyteller Anton Chernikov

Hi Anton. Thanks for speaking with us today. You do quite a lot! What would you say is unique about what you do? 

I get to impact the strategy, design and culture of large real estate developments across London.

And what makes you personally stand out?

I combine my architectural education and design skills with an entrepreneurial spirit. I get my hands dirty. I launch projects. I fail fast and prefer to learn by doing. Since graduating with a degree in architecture from UCL in 2010 I’ve had a somewhat unconventional mix of personal and professional experiences that make me stand out and more importantly enable me to add value. There aren’t too many people that are able to integrate expertise in architecture, property management, tech, marketing, sustainability, food, community building and experience design/event production.

What inspired you to go do what you do?

I have never applied for a job ad or written a CV. I’ve always worked as either a consultant or a partner/co-founder in a new start-up venture. I have always loved the excitement and creative energy that comes with launching a new venture or consulting project. I also work best when I have control over my own calendar and have the freedom to choose where, how and what I work on. I’ve danced and jumped between some very exciting projects and businesses during my 20’s. However, as I approached my 30s, triggered by a near-death experience in 2016, I realised that I had to focus more and build deeper expertise in my chosen field. I made a commitment to focus my career around the purpose of ‘building regenerative real estate’.

Anton made a commitment to focus his career around the purpose of building regenerative real estate.

What is the most challenging aspect of your work or the biggest challenge you have dealt with and how did you overcome it?

To succeed in the real estate industry you have to do your apprenticeship and find a way to work with / learn from the best. Property development, especially in a market as competitive as London, is incredibly complex and requires patience and deep knowledge. There is no substitute for experience. In the last two years working with the Alive team, I have been exposed to literally thousands of interconnected details that I didn’t even know existed. 

Making the decision to join Alive as a junior partner and work for 18+ months without pay to get the business off the ground was a big challenge, especially since I’m not the CEO and I don’t get to make the big decisions. However, I have a seat at the table and have a meaningful impact on the team’s thinking and strategy. Learning to work within a team and adapt to a different working culture has been an extremely useful and developmental experience for me. Taking the intrapreneurial path has undoubtedly been the best possible decision for my career.

What is your Mount Everest? What would you love to create in the world?

I am very excited by the prospect of designing and developing thousands of homes across London (my home city) with Alive. However, long-term I see myself using the skills I learn and the money I make with Alive, to build the next generation of eco-villages and eco-tourism destinations across the British and European countryside. I imagine creating a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) that would fund the acquisition of land and the development of regenerative villages and Wild Hotels that function as both immersive event venues (glamping, weddings, retreats, festivals, etc) and co-housing communities. I imagine being part of a global community who choose to live and raise their kids in a more regenerative and creative way. Instead of living a traditional suburban life where you drive everywhere, I imagine living a life that is both urban and rural in design; where we rent in the city and own farmland and property in an epic wilderness with forests and lakes on our doorstep. I sense after COVID that so many people are thinking and dreaming along similar lines.

My Mount Everest is to build a regenerative co-housing village at a scale of approximately 30-50 homes and 150 residents within a few hours travel from London. It would also be fun to travel and support other communities across the world to do the same.

Wow. That’s a very exciting vision and I can imagine something that people will want more of in the years to come! A few years ago you did the iDiscover Core programme. What is the most inspiring thing that happened to you as a result of doing the programme?

After the programme, I made the decision to return back to London and commit to joining the Alive team. The programme was helpful in reminding me to focus on my core purpose of ‘Regenerative Living’.

What do iDiscover and its community mean to you?

My iDiscover journey began with meeting Gal on a beach at a retreat in Ecuador in 2018 called DOMUS. We spoke at length about his CORE programme and iDiscover vision. I then joined the CORE programme a few months later.

For me, the programme was a unique synthesis of Gal’s deep research and study into the workings of the human mind. At first, I thought of iDiscover as an intense personal development course. It was great to learn the models and exercises and I still apply some of them to my life from time to time. I’m a self-learner and once I learn the models I prefer to go my own way. And so I didn’t really engage that much with iDiscover over the past year. I have been busy with my own life and priorities.

However, after having lunch with Gal last week and joining a CommuniTEA Zoom, I began to think about the potential of the iDiscover alumni community and how I could contribute and get more involved. Right now I don’t know enough people who have done iDiscover or been to enough alumni events to answer this question, but I would like to think that the iDiscover community could become a mastermind group, or a community for testing and experimenting with new projects or ideas, maybe even an extended family someday. Ultimately, this will not be defined top-down. It’s something that has to emerge from within the alumni community itself.

One of the projects I have been working on during COVID is called House of Transformation.

Perhaps we could host regular iDiscover alumni events where we can begin to explore how we can unleash the collaborative potential of the iDiscover alumni community to help create a more regenerative future? Give me a shout if you are interested in this. Email anton@exponentials.co.uk.

Anton’s newest project in London called House of Transformation

Congratulations on opening your latest project! Please tell us a bit more about House of Transformation and your related projects…

In September we rented a vacant office unit in our apartment building. Our vision was to create a nature-inspired multi-use event and meeting space that would enable us to bring together a collective of people and organisations who share our passion for regenerative design and community-led property development.  

Throughout the lockdown months we have been having many Zoom calls and email exchanges to develop new ideas around land restoration, permaculture, biophilic design, the future of work, community living, circular economies, modular construction and building regenerative villages. 

In many ways COVID has created a moment of pause in our lives. It has given us time to slow down and reflect on our priorities and choices. I truly believe that new models of regenerative agriculture, design, leadership and business are now beginning to emerge. 

Our goal is to provide a space and a platform from which we can initiate and deliver tangible regenerative projects at a local scale, here in London and across the UK. 

A virtual tour of the House of Transformation

We rent the space for COVID-secure private meetings, educational programs and community events. We also offer co-working timeshares to small businesses. 

If you are looking for a space to host an event, or an alternative to traditional office leases and co-working memberships, then please visit www.hotspaces.org. We also, partner with growing businesses create their own House of Transformation inspired multi-use workspaces. Please contact me anton@hotspaces.org for more information.

The next step in our vision is to find a piece of agricultural land where we could build or renovate a large barn into a Wild Hotel (in a similar style to HoT with multi-story coliving pods and multi-use communal spaces), which can be rented to a coliving community and also used as an event venue for weddings and retreats. 

We are also co-creating a gathering of up to 150 people next year in Portugal called re:build in collaboration with Waking Life. Get in touch if you want to join or learn more.

The space looks absolutely amazing. Congratulations! All these projects going on must be quite stressful sometimes. What is the most sacred daily/weekly/monthly ritual or performance hack that really works for you? 

I am a power user of Evernote that kindly remembers everything for me so I don’t have to. I follow many of the tips from the famous productivity book ‘Getting Things Done’ such as reaching Inbox Zero, prioritising ruthlessly and following the ‘do it now’ principle for tasks that take less than 2 minutes to complete. My favourite COVID ritual however has been to make our own Oatly Lattes and have morning coffee in bed with my partner Morgane. Plus we got a puppy called Zuko.

Anton’s partner Morgane and their puppy Zuko

And I was inspired to paint this…

Thats a beautiful painting! I love the colours. What is your guilty pleasure?

Eating ridiculous amounts of Watermelon during the hot summer months.

I can think of worse guilty pleasures to have! Haha. What was your best adventure ever?

It was my last-minute decision to go to Burning Man in 2017. This was my second Burning Man. I managed to hitch a ride from Reno and back. I stayed at First Camp and managed to borrow a bike for the week. It was a week filled with romances, incredible dancing and inspiring conversations. The first time I went, I felt a bit overwhelmed and intimidated. The second time I felt at home and closed an important chapter in my own personal development.

Anton at Burning Man 2017

Amazing! To finish the interview, what is your favourite quote or question you want to leave us with?

Imagine your dream home. What action can you take right now to move a step closer to making that dream a reality?

Great question Anton. Thank you for the interview. We wish you all the best with House of Transformation and your inspiring plans for the future!