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AJ 100

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How is the market changing? Which are the best ones to be in? Which, exactly, do you think are going to be the sectors to focus on?

The above table gives some indication. The first thing to notice from the comparative bars of the past four years'worth of predictions is that light blue, or 'other public building' is, you think, set for a dramatic expansion. One hopes this is not simply because surveyed architects have only arrived at this by contracting their projections for every other sector in a fit of pessimism. Instead, perhaps it might be associated with the perceived end of the lottery boom or with the public element of public private partnerships coming to the fore. You feel that there is also a shift to more public housing on the way (though less of the private stuff ), and less retail, perhaps as planning restrictions really kick in and out-oftown centres become yesterday's news.

Industrial you feel will be as slim as ever, with offices, like the Richard Rogers Partnership's Lloyd's Register of Shipping (right) also likely to be a diminishing market. Conservation is on the up. But surprisingly, given latent plans for CrossRail etc, you think transport will also be fading fast. Lastly, chances to build leisure buildings like Percy Thomas Architects' Wales Millennium Centre (below) will get rarer, again maybe due to that 'lottery lag'.

Love it, hate it It's pretty clear what the biggest bind is in architects' offices up and down the land:

administration (that's administrative duties rather than financial ruin). No one likes form-filling and the elements of the job which get in the way of pure design, and chasing fees, poor fees when you trap them, a lack of time, increasing bureaucracy (surely a subset of administration? ) and various other bugbears are testament to this. Worse news is that the paper pile appears to be growing: last year, administration polled 28.8 per cent of the vote.

You are concerned too, beyond the practice front door, about myriad threats to the architectural profession as a whole. Fee levels continue to be top of that list, but the 'R'word - 'recession' - is a new, albeit connected worry. Just over a quarter of those surveyed thought recession was the biggest threat to architects and architecture in this country.

Both the perilous position of the architect in the PFI world and planning regulations are still causing headaches, while poor education standards are a new concern this year. The RIBA and ARB must together iron out such problems as quickly as possible.

But there are, of course, bright sides, and where unreasonable or arrogant clients are a pain felt by many, satisfied clients make it all worthwhile, for almost a third of you. Actually finishing the project also brings joy, but is less important than it was a year ago, when it was the brightest element of the job. Creativity, variety, actually designing and gaining pleasure from solving architectural problems all contribute to the reasons why you still do it.

Future shock So what of the future? Louis Hellman's architect character (above left) isn't too sure. He's looking into his crystal ball, but is not as convinced as he was last year that the future will still be rosy. In fact, those companies surveyed in this year's AJ 100 are confident that the next 12 months will be 'bright', with the majority percentage - 72 - having actually crept up by one per cent from last year. But the major difference now is that those who said they didn't know last time out are this year convinced that it will be bad news just round the corner.

So, all in all, the AJ100 tables for this year still reflect a buoyant profession, but perhaps one which, conscious of apparently changing economic conditions and events worldwide, is now exercising a little caution.

There are still plenty of reasons to be cheerful, however, well into 2003. Bring it on!

Research by Camargue (Cheltenham)

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