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'It's a bloodbath': architects savaged by the recession

The architecture profession has been savaged by the recession and there is widespread fear of worse to come, the AJ’s State of the Profession survey has revealed

The results came in as fears of deflation mounted this week and Bank of England governor Mervyn King predicted the worst peacetime recession since 1931.

The survey’s shocking findings show that more than 65 per cent of practices have seen workloads drop and half have laid off staff. At least 13 practices admitted to shedding over 50 employees. The revelations come just days after Foster + Partners announced it was letting up to 400 staff go due to the economic downturn.

‘People are getting desperate,’ said one leading architect. ‘It really is bad out there, and “a bloodbath” is how it’s been described to me.’

Of the 300 architects polled in the survey, the largest of its kind, 20 per cent said they had taken pay cuts, with another 14 per cent saying a cut was on the cards.

The disturbing figures have not come as a surprise to former RIBA president Jack Pringle, who warned that redundancies and salary cuts ‘would soon be the norm’ in architecture.

Pringle fears the industry is in for a five-year recession and warned of worse to come: ‘It will really hit home in April. That’s the year end for most companies and the bad news will be tsunami-like because the problem has now spread from the banks to the real economy.’

Among other issues highlighted by the survey are the increasing number of practices allowing clients to defer payment. A fifth confessed to letting bills go unpaid beyond the due date – a trend described by the RIBA as ‘worrying’ and ‘clearly not sustainable in the medium-term’.

The return of the three-day week also appears to be spreading across the profession, with 14 per cent of architects saying they were working fewer hours and another 32 per cent saying a shorter week was being considered.

The RIBA raised further concerns about the 41 per cent of architects who confessed to dropping their fees – in particular the 7 per cent who were forced to ‘significantly’ reduce their charges. The RIBA claimed that lower fees devalue the work of architects.

Readers' comments (1)

  • Terrible to see this awful survey, I only hope I'll be able to keep my job

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