The profession has continued to shrink, according to new AJ100 data which reveals that the number of UK architects working for the country’s 100 largest practices has fallen again
The head count of UK-based architects at the 91 practices that appear on both this and last year’s AJ100 league table has dropped by 190, a fall in staff numbers of 3.5 per cent over the past 12 months. This compares with a smaller fall of 2.3 per cent in 2011. The top 100 practices now employ 5,563 ARB-qualified architects.
Meanwhile, analysis of the revenue data (submitted by 93 of the top 100 practices) shows combined fee income had dipped to £544 million, down 4.9 per cent from last year’s total of £572m.
Giuseppe Boscherini, a former Foster + Partners architect now at CB Richard Ellis, said: ‘This shows an increasing number of casualties of the current recession, especially among those practices that are narrowly specialised. On the other hand [it points towards a] positive trend, namely the absorption of architects into related fields, from academia through to project management.’
Robin Partington, of Robin Partington Architects, said: ‘Many architects are finding it very difficult to adapt to changing circumstance when traditional sources of work and demand for areas of expertise have simply dried up, in some cases overnight.
‘This is no surprise, given the cyclical nature of our business in an ever-changing global economy and the inertia involved in acquiring new skills, abilities and client bases. However, the situation is perhaps more severe and protracted than in the past.
‘It is not all bad. A number of practices are doing well. [And] We have been fortunate to set up and grow a substantial business over the past two years or so, with a diverse range of clients and projects.’
By contrast, latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show that unemployment among architects has dropped to the lowest level since December 2008, with just 940 architects currently on Jobseeker’s Allowance.
Matt Yeoman, of Buckley Gray Yeoman, said: ‘The big boys have definitely suffered. They weathered the storm initially, owing to the gestation period of their big projects. As those projects finished, staff numbers were reduced.
‘A lot of architects have been made redundant over the past few years. Initially, they signed on [for Jobseeker’s Allowance] in panic or out of necessity.
‘However, given the time to reflect, many of them have started up on their own or in small partnerships. Thus the overall level of unemployment in architecture has dropped. The next three years will be key. Can these start-ups sustain their new businesses over those critical early years?’
Commenting on the job market, Dave Madden of recruitment agency Mustard said: ‘Times are tough. The big firms are still lean and hiring on a need-only basis.
‘The savvy firms are using fixed-term contracts, as that enables them to use staff for long hours but with the ability to lose them quickly, if required.’