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Architects remain upbeat, despite slump in workloads

Fears of a UK recession following this month's slowdown in the US economy have done little to dent the profession's confidence in its prospects, architects reported last week.

Practices across the UK revealed a bullish stance despite latest figures which show a 25 per cent slump in workloads from mid 1999's 10-year high and an 18 per cent decline in new commissions in the past year. 'Our practice has never been busier and we are looking to recruit more staff, ' said Alan Dunlop of Glasgow-based Gordon Murray and Alan Dunlop Architects. 'We are even looking at moving into development and building an office for ourselves.'

RTKL partner Ken Christian agreed: 'There's no sense of panic.We haven't felt any particular strain right now.'

Analysis of practices' optimism by Mirza and Nacey Research also revealed hope for the economy and showed that just 13 per cent of large offices and 23 per cent of small practices expect workloads to fall during 2001. 'There's no likelihood that we will see a massive fall in workloads and there's no sign of a recession at this stage, ' said Aziz Mirza.

Construction Confederation economist John Stewart was also confident. He said growing consumer confidence, rises in real household incomes and anticipated falls in interest rates all bode well for architects. 'Assuming the US authorities take action to stop a real collapse, there shouldn't be a problem, ' he said.

Others, though, have already noticed the first signs of the boom's end. Munkenbeck & Marshall partner Stephen Marshall said: 'I'd say it has slowed down a wee bit, mainly in terms of the number of people calling up. Developers are tied up finishing what they've started and getting it sold.' He said that redundancies were not likely and that any contraction in staff would happen through leavers not being replaced.

Many architects are nervous about recession after the slump of the early 1990s hit them hard.

During the recession of the early 1990s Munkenbeck & Marshall's staff shrank from 23 to just four.

'After the last recession, it's never out of architects' minds when the next will be, ' said Lifschutz Davidson partner Ian Davidson.

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