If ever there were any doubt over London’s dominance of British architecture, a glance at these figures would quickly dispel it
More than half the employees of the practices that responded to the AJ100 survey are based in London. Only Scotland has a representation nudging 10 per cent. The figures are slightly skewed because very small practices are more likely to be based outside London, but it does offer an interesting insight into where influence lies in architecture in the UK.
‘Each practice has to strike a balance between being near to its market and keeping control’
Although BDP is the largest practice in the UK, it is outgunned in London by Foster + Partners and, by a whisker, Allies and Morrison. This reflects two very different approaches to practice. The distributed version is exemplified by BDP, which also tops the league in the North West and the North East, and Aedas, leading in the West Midlands and a strong presence in several other regions.
A more concentrated model is adopted by Foster + Partners, which runs almost all of its global work from its sole UK office, in London. One could argue in many ways that the world comes to Foster, since there are more than 50 nationalities in that office. Allies and Morrison also operates out of a single UK office. Both these practices have a recognisable design approach and a hierarchical approach, which contrasts with BDP, where individuals at the top of the practice will typically be responsible for both an office and a discipline.
Work does not always come from the place, geographically, that one would expect, but spreading across the country certainly offers opportunities. It is a balance that each practice has to strike between being near to its market and keeping control. What these results show is that both approaches can work well.
‘The survey results offer an interesting insight into where influence lies in architecture in the UK’
It is interesting that in Scotland, which is traditionally seen as a very separate market, only one of the four largest offices, Keppie Design, is a wholly indigenous practice. RMJM now has its head office in Edinburgh but its origins are not Scottish, and it operates on a global scale. Both Reiach and Hall and Page\Park Architects, seen as the backbone of Scottish architecture, were only just large enough to make the listing.