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The recession has hit Rogers – but keep your chin up

If starchitects are making redundancies, what hope is there? Plenty, says Christine Murray

When Foster + Partners said it was axing  300 jobs, I wasn’t as shocked or surprised  as perhaps I should have been. It isn’t such  a stretch to imagine Norman Foster, the business-savvy overlord, tip of little finger in mouth, ordering redundancies as he swoops past the office in his helicopter. It’s harder to imagine Richard Rogers, the soft-hearted starchitect, making the 35 redundancies that his firm, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, announced this week (see page 5).

Rogers’ firm has always been portrayed as one big happy family. When I interviewed members of staff for our AJ100 issue last year (AJ 15.05.08), his architects gushed about the office’s caring atmosphere and their in-house chef, who serves up free lunches daily with menu items such as braised pork chops with baked polenta. So, when Rogers released a statement saying, ‘in my long career, this is one of the saddest days’, I was predisposed to believe him – and assume his staff feel the same way.

If good-guy Rogers is letting people go, things must be bad. Rogers said ‘the economic downturn we are experiencing is the most ruthless and wide-ranging I can remember’. His commercial director Andrew Morris said he feared the recession would last for years.

But before you descend into another bout of recession depression, maybe it’s time for a little glass-half-full thinking

But before you descend into another bout of recession depression, maybe it’s time for a little glass-half-full thinking. Despite the redundancies and the scary results of the AJ State of the Profession survey, nearly every week the AJ has a competition win to report.

Within the AJ’s last four issues, we’ve announced that Riches Hawley Mikhail Architects won the 100-home Greyhound Opening project in Norwich, Allies and Morrison won the courtyard job at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office headquarters in London, Letts Wheeler Architects won the Salisbury Square competition in Salisbury, and this week, small practice DRDH Architects won a concert hall and library in Norway (pictured).

Things are tough, but there is work out there – and the Homes and Communities Agency bailout (see page 9) and rumblings regarding new social housing programmes are just more good news for architects. I hope these good-news stories inspire your practice to roll up its sleeves and keep working.

christine.murray@emap.com

Readers' comments (1)

  • While II applaud the positive tone of this article it fails to realise that competitions do not bring in anywhere near the cash flow needed to maintain staff. You cite Allies and Morrison as winning the FCO competition. This is correct but the result of win that failed to save 20 jobs recently, including two of my best friends, with another 20 at risk. These competitions are small pickings.

    we are in a recession like no other and I fear that things will get worse, before they get better. I hope that I am wrong.

    The industry must overcome the competition and working for free mentality that it comtnues to celebrate!

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