Global giant HOK has said it is on the hunt for sports projects in the Middle East and Asia after snapping up US sport specialist 360 Architecture last week
The purchase of the 180-strong, Kansas-based outfit signals a major return to the sector for the AJ100 practice following a five-year absence after the company’s then sports division, HOK Sport, broke away and rebranded as Populous in 2009.
The two companies signed a ‘non-compete clause’ which blocked HOK from working in sports architecture and prohibited Populous from bidding for work outside sports architecture. That clause expired at the end of 2013.
HOK, which is currently working on the masterplan for the Lusail City in Qatar - home to the stadium which will host the World Cup final in 2022 - told the AJ it was keeping ‘all options open’ with regard to new work opportunities but had specifically targeted the Middle East.
Speaking to the AJ about future opportunities HOK President Bill Hellmuth said: ‘We do a lot of work in the Middle East, and in the UAE and Abu Dhabi, and that market for sports is expanding at an exponential rate. If you add to that with what is going on in Asia then this move [acquiring 360 Architecture] makes sense.’
Referring to the Qatar market John Rhodes, HOK’s London director of sports and entertainment said: ‘It will be interesting to see how that [Qatar] market develops. There are obviously Olympics and a World Cup every four years so there are always going to be opportunities.’
Brad Schrock, founder and principal of 360 Architecture said that sports projects are becoming more demanding, with many clients asking for schemes which may have a mixed-use element or ability to adapt to new environments: ‘Almost every client requests us to look at adaptability, who knows what the next top sport is going to be in 15 years from now? Major league soccer is growing exponentially in the States right now.
‘This is something which we are excited about, changing the way sports facilities function.’
Hellmuth said the company had been looking to re-enter the sports sector for a while before the opportunity with 360 occurred: ‘We had thought about growing organically, but when our two companies met we realised within 15 minutes that this was going to work. Our goals are aligned.’
‘HOK want to be in most major cities and most major building types, to not have a sports component, which is such a critical part of a culture, wasn’t right for us.’
According to Hellmuth the merger will see staff from 360 given the opportunity to move to HOK offices in Europe and Asia, though no official moves have yet been announced.