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aj 100

aj 100

London and the South East

Almost a third of UK architects in the UK come from the Greater London area, 17 per cent from the South East.

So the above regional table's upper reaches broadly reflect that of the main AJ100 table. In short - all the big players are in the south. The exception is Aedas AHR, which is now the fifth biggest practice in the UK and has a bigger presence in the regions - in places like Leeds and Manchester - than it does in the capital. Similarly RMJM, seventh biggest outfit in the UK, lists itself under Scotland. Three of the 10 lost architects - Sheppard Robson, RHWL Partnership, and Reid Architecture, while large housing and healthcare specialist PRP Architects put on 10 more architects, representing a jump of 12 per cent. It also opened a new Manchester office last November.

The South West

Almost a tenth (nine per cent) of the UK's architects work from offices in the south west of the country, a region with a good track record in high quality design, from Hudson Featherstone's Baggy House, to Grimshaw's Eden Project and Long and Kentish in Falmouth (right).

Table-topper and the UK's 28th biggest practice, Stride Treglown, was on an expansion trail in last year's tables, having already added four to its number of qualified architects.

Now it has broken through the half century barrier - fittingly in its Golden Jubilee year - adding five more architects over the period. The £6.6 million turnover practice, founded in 1953, has its headquarters in the Clifton area of Bristol, but opened offices in Plymouth in 1979, Cardiff in 1996, London in 1998 and Truro in 2002. It has 146 employees in all - up by 34 from the same time last year.

'In recent months we have won significant new work in the education and healthcare sectors where we have launched specialist advice and support programmes', says chairman David Marval. 'We have also won a growing number of commissions to design accommodation for students and key workers in these two important sectors.'

Feilden Clegg Bradley, too, has continued its steady growth. Its RAF Museum project at Hendon is nearing completion, and it has been appointed to produce a masterplan and design for a new Cold War and Transport aircraft museum at RAF Cosford in Shropshire.

The Midlands

The Midlands is once again dominated by Nightingale Associates, which has found its wings both metaphorically and literally in the hospitals it designs. The practice has had to manage large-scale growth over the past two years. It had 60 architects this time two years ago, and can now count on almost twice as many. The firm boasts it is 'the largest in Europe specialising in healthcare and science', offering 'a fully integrated architectural service, including project management, briefing, health planning, laboratory planning, landscaping and interior design'.

Established in 1989, it now employs more than 130 staff, with offices in Oxford, London, Brighton and Cardiff and with links with similar practices in the US, Australia and South Africa. It is headed by chairman Mike Nightingale, author of Better by Design, a major government-backed guide.

Elsewhere, Oxford Architects is a new arrival in fourth. First known as The Oxford Architects Partnership after its formation in 1962, it then merged with Modus Architects in Bristol in 2000 and with Delta Architects in London in 2002. Frank Shaw Associates and the Armstrong Burton Group are also new.

The North East

Aedas AHR Architects is still the biggest in this region, having changed its name again during the year from its old Abbey Holford Rowe monicker. It also now has Asia's LPT and Peddle Thorp from Melbourne, Australia on board in the global network.

Last summer, chairman James Handley said that, with more than 500 staff in the UK and 900 worldwide, the firm was setting its sights even higher.

Within five to 10 years, he projected, it could have 2,000 staff, and the US could be the next expansion point.

Ryder, too, has upped capacity.

Chairman and RIBA president Paul Hyett says it is going from strength to strength. He sees evidence of a lot of PFI work, predominantly in health, education, and with LIFT projects where Ryder is winning five or six clinics at a time, some in London.

'Our aspiration is to be a best practice for the North and North East with an absolutely first class national reputation. And our view is we've got that.'

Hyett adds that, contrary to the 'mutterings and mumblings' about recession, Ryder's work has held up in every sector it figures in.

North West

Ellis Williams Architects, again the top practice in the region in terms of the numbers it employs, spent much of the year in the afterglow of favourable press and public reaction to its major project, Baltic - The Centre for Contemporary Art. RIBA added to the applause, staging its Stirling Prize reception there during the summer, much to the chagrin of many who argued that it unfairly swayed the voting process away from Cullinan's Downland Gridshell and towards Wilkinson Eyre's Millennium Bridge, directly outside.

However, EWA continued its slight contraction in the face of this success, losing two architects after dropping one the year before.

Ian Simpson Architects, which was too late to submit this year, anyway reports that it has 19 architects today compared to 25 last time. The reason?

It has been 'streamlining' and building for the future by taking on more postpart IIs. The 16-year-old practice has been associated with the regeneration of Manchester over the past decade, including masterplanning the city core after the IRA bomb, and latterly building Urbis, Manchester's new transport interchange and the 22 storey glass residential tower, No. 1 Deansgate.

Scotland

The Scottish architectural scene appears to be flourishing, even if most of the press reports concerning the new Scottish Parliament building seem to involve delays and cost hikes.

Current estimates for the RMJMdesign suggest it could reach £400 million - against the £10-£40 million predicted in 1997.

Elsewhere, forthcoming highlights will include the second RIAS award for Best Building, last year scooped by Malcolm Fraser for the Dance Base studios in Edinburgh.

That will happen later this month, followed by the RIAS convention in Stirling, where new president Gordon Murray takes over.

RMJM is the biggest Scots firm, newly topping the list since last year it incorrectly said its head office was in London. It is proudly based in Edinburgh, with other offices in Cambridge and Glasgow, and expanded by 13 architects over the year.

Comprehensive Design, which sat on the top spot last time, is down to three, and under its new name, CDA.

It has lost staff as well as letters, dropping from the 51 it said it had last year (but reporting 48 this year for the 2001 figures), to 42 qualified architects. Last year it won a competition to design Eldon Square bus station in Newcastle upon Tyne's city centre.

PFI. Three initials rarely create such a feeling of dread as these, with architects tending to the belief that the procurement method militates against good design in favour of other considerations.

Even the Audit Commission found that the use of PFI in procuring new school buildings was failing, with the early examples falling well short on technical and architectural quality. Local authorities too, have been found wanting in terms of how appropriately they are set up to manage complex PFI projects.

One example: a press report last month showed how flagship PFI hospital the North Cumbria Acute NHS Trust has been dogged by problems Unison believes is directly to do with the PFI. It quoted members saying that beds were so close patients could hold hands, and temperatures on the top floor so high that patients practising walking could not hold a handrail for fear of burning their hands.

Luckily, however, CABE chief executive Jon Rouse, whose organisation agreed with the broad findings of the Audit Commission on education PFIs, can see better news on the horizon.

'The Department for Education and Skills is now committed to getting better quality schools from the PFI process and has recently put in place a raft of new standards and procedures that should help to improve standards.'

PFI won't be going away, especially in the hospital building programme, where firms like Edward Cullinan and Partners are happy to go down the PFI bidding route to get work.

The above table broadly reflects how the bigger practices are setting out their stall for PFI. There is a new leader at the top - Aedas AHR taking over from HLM Architects.

BDP is new at 2.

Nightingale has flown up a position, while SB+T in 23rd place has 75 per cent more PFI this year, and Keppie Design 50 per cent.

The regional tables this year may seem a bit light on Northern Ireland and Wales, but there is a reason.

In Northern Ireland's case, none of the practices working in the region took part (again), and in Wales, Percy Thomas was the sole respondent. Its stats were as follows: The practice has 78 qualified architects, up three from 75 in 2001; over half its work is from PFI projects and it earned £7.362 million in 2002.

Eagerly awaited schemes in the Principality include the Welsh Assembly, which is being designed by the Richard Rogers Partnership, and the Wales Millennium Centre, both in Cardiff. Design standards should also improve, via the new Design Commission for Wales.

3.5m visitors went on the BA London Eye In its first year of business, the Marks Barfield-designed wheel is a key symbol of London's new architecture.

10,000 people in the first two months - after its soft opening visited Long and Kentish's National Maritime Museum Cornwall. Designed with Land Design Studio as part of the wider Falmouth Maritime project, it is hoping to reach 180,000 in its first year. It was set to be opened officially by the Duke of York on 14 March.

The £20 million New Art Gallery in Walsall by Caruso St John Architects, an emblem of Midlands'contemporary architecture (though designed by a London-based practice), won CABE's first £5,000 Buildings Sights award last October.The competition, launched in July last year with the Arts Council, aims to inspire clients and contractors to improve public access to their building sites.

87 schemes were considered by CABE's design review committee during 2001/02, a 25 per cent increase on 2000/01. It has a goal of over 50 per cent of its reviewed projects coming from outside London.

At 20m tall and with a wingspan of 54m Anthony Gormley's Angel of the North in Gateshead - the welcome sign for Tyneside - is the largest sculpture in Britain and the largest angel sculpture in the world. Its size and prominence means it is also highly visible - seen by more than one person every second.

Northern light: Arup Associates' Commonwealth Stadium opened in the region last year to great acclaim, and hosted Manchester's successful Commonwealth Games.Work is well under way now to convert the stadium for use by Manchester City Football club after it leaves its historic Maine Road ground for the last time at this season's close.

New Caledonia: A new, internal image showing how RMJM's eagerly-awaited Scottish Parliament building will look.

This is where the 'action'will take place, the debating chamber.The project, initially conceived by the late Enric Miralles, has been dogged by delays and rising cost estimates.

This new Scottish icon is, fittingly for these tables, designed by BDP.The £38 million Glasgow Science Centre consists of three buildings at Pacific Quay on the Clyde, including the Richard Horden-conceived 400 foot Glasgow Tower (currently closed for repairs). It also has an Imax Theatre complete with a 350 seat auditorium, housing the biggest screen in the country.

How well do architects market themselves?

The answer, it seems, is not very well, with two thirds of the survey set (all architects taking part in this year's AJ100) declaring they are 'bad or very bad'. Time to dust off the website.

25 major hospital schemes, 7 prisons, 9 roads and a number of other projects such as departmental office accommodation and training facilities had had PFI contracts let as at December 2002.

Michael Wilford's Berlin Embassy, cited as a showcase example of using the PFI

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