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Archial: The rise and fall of a UK architecture giant

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The UK’s sixth largest practice, Archial, this week went into administration, marking the end of an adventurous saga which began in 1996 when Stewart McColl founded the company

1996 Stewart McColl forms the SMC Group.

1997 SMC and Zeidler Architects formed in a joint 50:50 venture known as SMC Zeidler.

2001 the company acquired north England-based practice William Gower and Partners, forming SMC Gower Architects.

2002 SMC acquired Corstorphine & Wright Kenzie Lovell, to form SMC Corstorphine & Wright, providing a Midlands based addition to the Group

SMC Group Architects was also formed, divisions included: SMC Kemp Architects (specialising in small works projects) and SMC Urban Lab (specialising in urban brownfield sites).

As it became AIM-listed, SMC Group bought Corstorphine & Wright Hills Erwin and Philip Lees & Associates.

2005 The group acquired the architecture business of  Dempster Thrussell & Rae to form SMC DTR:UK. The founding directors, Andrew Dempster, Andrew Rae and Paul Thrussell set up DTR:UK.

In December of that year, a specialist division SMC Education was formed. This division was formed to bring together all of the skills within the group related to education projects such as the Building Schools for the Future programme.

February 2006 The group acquired both Penrose (based in the south west) and CMC Architects (based in East Anglia).

Also that year SMC Group acquired five more businesses notably Stirling prize winner and London based architect will Alsop, together with Davis Duncan, Hugh Martin, Jenkins & Marr and Parr Architects all based in Scotland.

December 2008 SMC announced that it proposed to change its name to the Archial Group, following approval by shareholders. The change sought to improve the resilience of the business and the company’s reflection to working to a dedicated streamlined and unified fashion.

March 2010 Archial chief executive Chris Littlemore announced his intention to acquire new practices. He told the AJ: ‘I believe that we would like to be in the top ten globally in the next three to four years.’

August 2010 The company issued a profit warning to shareholders. Shortly thereafter share prices fell 61 per cent.

September 2010 Shares in Archial suspended. Days later the company appointed administrators PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

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