‘Booms and busts aren’t good, but you must come out the other end stronger’
How have the past 12 months been?
Acceptable. We’ve matched our business plan because we planned for the recession four years ago. It’s been longer in coming than we expected, but it’s deeper than we anticipated. Extremes of boom and bust are not good, but you must come out the other end stronger. I hope a sense of reality will come back to the market.
What is central to your business plan?
We’re not reliant on any sector for more than 20 per cent of turnover and our 11 regional offices undertake projects ranging from £50,000 to £50 million. We’ve also teamed up with Gleeds to bid for Office of Government Commerce contracts. We link with other architects to share our conservation skills; in Hong Kong we are developing the central police station site with Herzog & de Meuron.
Are you looking for more work overseas?
Yes. We hope to expand into Hong Kong and China. We’d consider partnering with other practices to enter South and Central America too. Closer to home, we opened a new office in Edinburgh recently.
Is the future of British architecture an export industry?
There is a skill set in the UK that I suspect is unique, particularly in conservation. We see a role in educating overseas professionals in these skills. We want to help instill a culture of conservation – in place of restoration – in new markets across the world.
Have you made redundancies in the past year and are you recruiting?
We’ve not made any redundancies over the past year, but the unpredictable market means it’s necessary to review resources. If we recruit, it would be for specialist positions only – to strengthen developing sectors. This year is about consolidation. We expect an upturn around the middle of 2010.
Beyond conservation, which other sectors are important to your practice?
Conservation is a skill that can be applied in any sector – but places of worship remain a core area, as is the cultural sector and private residential, which is still healthy. Public buildings are another sector in which there doesn’t appear to be any drop off.
Are you moving into new sectors?
Yes, hospitality. We’ve recruited Jeremy Blake, with 20 years’ experience, to head up that sector. In the past year, we’ve secured a number of commissions at the high end of the market: four-star plus and boutique hotels.
How important is profitability?
Profit is important; along with our skills base, it’s our lifeblood. The partners have invested heavily with their own money to develop the business over the past four years.
How optimistic are you for 2009?
The fact that we’re diversifying into foreign climes is evidence of our optimism. Also, a lot of building owners are investing in refurbishment and repairs because it’s cheaper. And I think the government will put money into public buildings to kick-start the food chain and flow of cash. Rory Olcayto
Purcell Miller Tritton was number 28 in the 2009 AJ100