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aj 100

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aj 100

Forty-two-year old BDP has made it a hat-trick of appearances at the top of the league table of the UK's biggest practices. But its middle-age spread looks to be a welcome expansion, for the first time in its history via acquisition rather than organic growth.

Chairman Nick Terry (see right) explains that the 'sectorisation' of the company has helped, as will a concentration on healthcare work, an area which forms the bedrock of a number of firms making big advances in recruitment in this year's AJ100.

Take Nightingale Associates, which is the largest healthcare practice in the country and has seen fit to add almost half as many architects again to its number. It bought out Wales-based practice h2M Architects in September and shifted its Brighton and Cardiff offices into new, larger premises.

Brighton expects to double in two years and the firm is looking to expand elsewhere too.Anshen Dyer, another in the field and new to our lists this year, also felt it had to double in size.

Other success stories relating to sheer volume of work included Foster and Partners, which added 19 (but admitted to overestimating its figures in the 2001 survey) and Squire and Partners, now in its well-received King's Cross offices. It added 18, almost half as many architects again as it began the year with.

However, where there were expansions, there were also contractions - though perhaps surprisingly, fewer architects were laid off this year than last. In total, 455 were taken on in 2002 across 57 companies, as opposed to 456 across 53 companies a year ago. Fewer than half as many compared with new recruits - 202 - were shown the exit door. It was 233 last time out. The total set was 5,143 architects across all the firms taking part this year.

Individual companies feeling the pinch included Sheppard Robson, with a cull of just under 20 per cent of its architects - 29 staff. This is not as drastic as it might sound, according to director Graham Francis, as the firm took on a lot of students and 'B plusses' - college leavers - and was down only 10 people from 275 to 265. Gensler, busy completing Europe's largest PFI project, the GCHQ 'doughnut' in Cheltenham, lost 20, representing a whopping 35 per cent of its qualified architects. Broadway Malyan and Chapman Taylor both shrank by just over 11 per cent, and Purcell Miller Tritton is now only the joint 93rd biggest firm, having tightened its belt.

It has 13 fewer architects now - a reduction of 35 per cent. In the main, steady growth was the watchword.

The big boys

The table above also gives some indication of a different kind of firm at its upper reaches, many with a multidisciplinary approach at their hearts.

The roll-call is a stable one, with the top 10 as they were last year. Troubled Atkins - whose share price has plummeted and which has been linked with bids to take it over - is a much bigger entity now, however, having added 824 staff to its global workforce. Babtie has had an even steeper recruitment curve, adding 637 - 22 per cent to its bulk.

Much of the rest is made up of the larger architectural practices, with Broadway Malyan (down 42 staff ) and Gensler (down 56 staff ) again the stand-out firms for losing staff. It's not been a good couple of years for the latter, since last year's table revealed it lost 21 architects then too: from 95 to 37 qualified architects in two years is some shift, though Gensler is more of a force outside the UK. HOK International is bigger, but managed to add to its numbers in the UK too.

and girls

The low numbers of women employed by the architectural profession is still a bugbear. Is it the male-oriented nature of the construction industry as a whole? Is it the seven year course? The long hours? What?

Whatever the reason, there is a league table of practices which are big on equality and those that are less so. For sheer numbers, BDP is again top of the pile, with 39 women among its 270 architects. Then come Nightingale (appropriately) Associates; RHWL Partnership, Aedas AHR Architects, HOK International, RMJM, PRP Architects, Chapman Taylor, Reid Architecture and Aukett Associates.

But in percentage terms - more of an accurate representation of a firm's overriding commitment to gender equality, BPR Architects scores highest. Almost three quarters there are women - but there are only seven qualified architects in all. Exactly half of Pollard Thomas & Edwards' 40 architects are female, and Wimberly Allison Tong & Goo counts just under half - 45 per cent of its 33 - from the fairer sex. From there, it is Avanti Architects, Pringle Brandon, Architects Design Partnership, Quatro Design, Nightingale Architects, Feilden Clegg Bradley Architects, David Chipperfield Architects and the rest. Chief offenders at the other end of the scale are, from the bottom up, CDA, S&P Architects and Interior Designers; Stephen George & Partners; Cooper Cromar; Atkins Architects, Babtie and Pick Everard.

All employ less than four per cent women. Tut, tut.

Fees, fees, fees

Foster and Partners has consolidated its position at the top of the fee earners table, the one which really matters to most practices. It earned marginally more in fees this time out, but has not been quite so efficient in eking out the maximum per architect on those famed all-nighters in Hammersmith.

Last year (when it overestimated its total numbers) it managed to get the equivalent of £224,296 from each architect over the year - only Richard Rogers Partnership and Mason Richards Partnership could claim better figures. This year, despite headline projects such as Swiss Re going up in the City of London, efficiencies dropped to just - just! - £203,340.

The practice was disappointed to have lost out to Libeskind in the highprofile competition to redevelop the World Trade Center site and Alsop at Liverpool waterfront, and received a little flak for its GLA building from Tories and Liberal Democrats (AJ 6/2/2003). But it did win a competition for a £160 million station in Florence, while other Foster schemes to watch out for include the Sage gallery in Gateshead, which was topped out in January.

The Richard Rogers Partnership scored more in terms of the fees-toarchitectural staff ratio, squeezing £252,174. It won the British Council for Offices' top prize for its Chiswick Park (Phase 1) scheme in west London and in February the practice got the go-ahead for its gateway tower for London's Paddington Basin development. The 30-storey, £300 million Grand Union building was given the thumbs-up by Westminster City Council, while it also won back its high profile job to design the Welsh Assembly and the competition to design the new Birmingham library.

Its huge £448 million Madrid airport will also be ready for take off soon.

Kohn Pedersen Fox - featured in a special issue of the AJ on 20 February, climbed to 11th from 13th in the numbers department. But the designer of the public inquiry-winning Heron Tower screamed ahead of its efficiency rate last time out. Bang on £200,000 per architect in last year's survey turned to close to £250,000 this time.

All three, though, were eclipsed by Mason Richards Partnership's performance, improving from last year's £10.75 million to £12 million during 2002. It topped the 'efficiency' pile with over £260,000 for each architect working at the firm, though its multidisciplinary nature may slant that picture. The outfit, with offices in Birmingham, Bristol and Wolverhampton, has worked on a range of schemes including with Grimshaw on Birmingham's Millennium Point.

On the up

It follows that BDP is the new leader in this field (fastest risers, above), given that it has bolted on fees after its merger with Whicheloe Macfarlane. Last year BDP added just seven per cent to its fees from the year before that, representing £1.3 million. So the period 2001-02 represents a step-change. And the 'wall' of health work chairman Nick Terry expects to continue should be supplemented by a rise in education jobs emanating from its Hampden Gurney 'vertical' school. That scheme, he says, generated 'a lot of interest' from clients, and a requirement for housing on part of the site may lead to more - last year housing only accounted for two per cent of BDP's fees. The practice is however doing an interesting project in the Netherlands - the Paleiskwartier series of 'Armada' blocks along a canal in Den Bosch.

Elsewhere, HOK has jumped a place. Pascall + Watson and Lewis & Hickey, meanwhile, at three and four, are new names to top the table, though refused to give details of last year. Aedas AHR Architects has also climbed markedly, adding 40 per cent to its coffers compared to last time. It sealed a merger with Midlands-based practice TCN Architects and revealed an ambitious programme to double its 50-strong London office and create a high-design 'bureau' image.

The final three firms to watch in terms of their fast rising fees are, first, Hawkins\Brown, up 58 per cent to £1.4 million. Then there is Ryder, led by RIBA president Paul Hyett and new RIBA honorary fellow Mark Thompson, up 63 per cent to £2.2 million.

Ryder has geared itself to attack PFI healthcare projects, forming an alliance with US architect and world top three healthcare designer HKS.

The third notable leap is from Anshen Dyer, again, which added 65 per cent to design fees it earned last year. But Edinburgh-based Michael Laird Architects, a late addition to the tables, has enjoyed a 75 per cent jump in fees.

Senior partner Brian Lightbody explains that last year was 'exceptional', with a concentration on commercial schemes. 'We see commercial work to be quiet over the next two years, though, ' he says, adding that what might take its place is public work in education. Its rebranding - from Michael Laird Partnership - will also help, he says.

The big picture

With the total UK income figures (below), the top five have all stayed in the same order. Babtie, though, has added £55 million more in fees this year and increased its fee income per employee rate by almost a fifth.

Gensler, again, has plummeted, making £7.5 million less in fees during 2002 than it did during 2001. But there are new appearances for Lewis & Hickey again, and health(y) practices Anshen Dyer and Nightingale Associates. Two others deserve a mention: Michael Laird Architects again, which added 43 per cent to make a total of £1.28 million in fees and reckons it will add 15 per cent to that next year; and S&P Architects & Interior Designers, which is in for steady growth. It added just over £1million - a 23 per cent rise - and expects to grow by the same proportion next time. Next stop, the regions.

Terry's all gold

For Nick Terry, the new chairman of BDP (above), there are 'interesting times' ahead, economically.The firm has grown again by acquiring Whicheloe Macfarlane, but Terry is firmly of the view that growth should not be for growth's sake.And the firm's major clutch of awards - from institutions like the RIBA and Civic Trust, prove it is on the right track too in terms of quality.

'We're a big practice, 'says Terry.

'Some say we're a bit too big to be small and a bit too small to be big! We will grow a little bit.But the idea is to grow in efficiency.'

One area Terry has in mind is health work.BDP is gearing itself up to take advantage of what he describes as a 'wall of work'coming out of government, and not all through the PFI. It is key ('a huge challenge to the profession'), especially as some of the practices which are currently set up for the sector use an American, rather than European model - not always deemed appropriate.This was also one of the reasons behind the merger with 80-strong specialist Whicheloe Macfarlane last November.A burgeoning health sector will also compensate for a crash in offices that Terry believes stems from the stockmarkets, City job losses, dot-com bubbles bursting etc. Industrial is similarly down, but BDP is getting involved in big masterplan schemes in places like Liverpool - 'we see in the UK a continuation of urban design-led regeneration'.

So, BDP is again top, and seemingly more buoyant than ever, with a central belief still intact in the way the company is run.'We do believe fundamentally in the integrated team, ' says Terry. It seems to work.

200% That's how much Chantrey expects to grow next year, trebling its staff to six qualified architects.Blair Associates will double, it says, adding 15 architects, while, at the other end of the scale, Nightingale Architects expects to add almost a third, expecting to have 133 architects this time next year.

11% of RIBA members are female

The 2002 stat comes from Sunita Sinha, chair of Architects for Change, who says that what's worse is that that figure's down two per cent on figures for 2001.She points to long hours, bad pay, and poor childcare provision as the reason why architecture lags so seriously behind its fellow professions such as engineering, surveying and town planning.

2% of RIBA members are from ethnic minorities Another 'disgraceful'statistic from Sinha, who reports that this has not changed a jot in a decade.'I think that this is something about which we must ask ourselves why.'

Leading fee earner Foster and Partners'Sage Gateshead, topped out in January, will be home to a 1,700-seat performance hall, a smaller performance space, a series of rehearsal rooms and a music information centre.

£300m in fees were earned in 2002. . .

. . . by the top 27 biggest fee-earning practices.That works out at an average of £11 million per practice.

But that's down on last year's figures. In 2001, the top 25 firms earned £310 million in architectural fees, at an average of £12.4 million per practice.

19% of architects are sole practitioners* The biggest sector was those with 11-30 architectural staff, which amounted to 22 per cent of the profession.Then comes 3-5 (16 per cent); 51+ (13 per cent); 6-10 (13 per cent); 2 (10 per cent); followed by 31-50 architectural staff (7 per cent of the profession).

*Source: Architects'Employment & Earnings 2002

£45k is the upper quartile (ie one quarter earn more) median wage across all categories (sole principals, private practice salaried etc) in the RIBA 2002 survey. £27,000 was the lower quartile (ie one quarter earn less than the median - the middle point of the sample.

We asked the UK's AJ100 architecture practices to rate the performance of the RIBA over the last year, using a scale of 1 (very bad) to 5 (very good) All three bodies, CABE, RIBA, and the ARB have different functions, of course, but the RIBA was adjudged to have performed better than the ARB (see page 12) though worse than CABE over the last year.

The third and final in our series of how AJ100 practices rated architectural institutions CABE, RIBA and the ARB.

How did the ARB perform over the year?

AJ100 architects'views of the ARB were the worst of the three. Its own survey found architects felt the board is 'remote, invisible, but necessary', but has 'fair'disciplinary processes.

£1,863,300 is the cash sum the ARB 'made' last year set against a total expenditure of £16,354 less - £1,846,946. The bulk of income - 87 per cent - came from retention fees.The biggest chunk of spending - 37 per cent - went on staff.

23 per cent went on other admin costs.

30% of all full time UK architects are based in Greater London RIBA figures show that 17 per cent are from the South East, nine per cent each from South West and Scotland, seven per cent from the North West, five per cent each from Yorkshire and Humberside, West and East Midlands; with four per cent from Wales.The rest - three per cent in each case - are based in East Anglia, Ulster and the North.

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