The International Practice of the Year award is based on key business data from the international AJ100 survey, such as the practice’s percentage growth in fees and the increase year-on-year in the number of architects employed in overseas markets
Last year RTKL UK was shortlisted, but this year an increase in overseas earnings has helped it muscle its way to the top spot. Active in North, Central and South America, Asia (particularly South East Asia) and Australia, RTKL is a truly global design brand. Its UK-based arm RTKL UK is no exception to its parent company, with an impressive 835 of its total 893 employees operating from overseas.
This emphasis on overseas work and its 30 qualified architects based in the UK go some way to account for the practice’s relatively modest place in the ranking, compared with other global giants such as Foster + Partners, Atkins, Chapman Taylor (which deserves an honorable mention for its 250 per cent growth – from £1 million to £3.5 million – since last year in overseas projects delivered out of UK offices), Gensler and John McAslan + Partners but, over the last year, RTKL UK has ratcheted up its overseas earnings to its London office by an admirable degree, increasing by almost 20 per cent from £10 million to £12 million. The practice now employs 507 architects overseas, a steep jump of more than 30 per cent from its 2010 figure of 382.
RTKL’s serious inroads into Europe started with the opening of its London office in 1990, which was followed by another in Madrid in 1999. Since then it has designed more than 500,000m2 of commercial and institutional projects in the UK and Europe.
Market changes have not had a significant effect on RTKL. Fee earnings have increased despite the practice falling 32 places in the AJ100 rankings (it employs 14 less architects in the UK than last year). ‘Our strategic business and planning efforts in the Middle East and Asia positioned us well, through large planning and urban development projects,’ explains Alan Morgan, director of the London office. With growth evident in both the Middle East and China, director Ken Christian adds that RTKL is ‘well placed for 2011 and 2012’.
RTKL’s London office is currently working on the Paradise Center in Sofia, Bulgaria. Once completed, the grandly named complex will be Bulgaria’s largest mall, offering a total of 80,000m2 of commercial space plus another 25,000m2 of entertainment venues. The mall is expected to be connected underground to the final station of the second line of the Sofia Metro, which is scheduled to open in 2012.
Closer to home, RTKL UK is involved in the planned regeneration of Edinburgh’s Leith Docks – the single largest such project ever to be undertaken in the city’s history. The practice is responsible for a 53-hectare mixed-use waterfront development, which will comprise the first two ‘urban villages’ within the wider Leith Docks scheme that has been laid out.
Foster + Partners
John McAslan + Partners