1 BDP International Last year: 1
BDP has done it again. Five years on the bounce, the firm has found itself at the very top of the AJ100. No mean achievement, given the fluctuations other firms have experienced in the last few years. How has BDP done it?
The most obvious answer is that it spreads its workload and expertise over just about every sector. 'We are now pretty much back where we started, ' chairman Nick Terry said. 'We are 50 per cent in the public sector and 50 per cent in the commercial world.' The firm has obviously done rather well out of the burgeoning PFI business, but it is also keen to emphasise its other, slightly less high-profile areas of expertise. What does the future hold for BDP?
'We believe we can grow by a half to threequarters over the next six years, ' Terry added.
'But most of that will be outside the UK.'
2 Atkins Last year: 2
Another good year for this multidisciplinary company; the UK's second biggest employer of registered architects. As with many firms of this scale, success has often come through the ever-increasing PFI workload, although other highlights have included work on a new 'iconic' city academy in Liverpool. Atkins spent 2004 determined to prove that it was committed to a high standard of design in the public sector, as shown by the recruitment of a smattering of architects from the likes of Fosters and Rogers.
3 Foster and Partners Last year: 4
Fosters has capitalised on last year's Stirling Prize win for its 30 St Mary Axe Swiss Re building, and continues to secure high-profile projects globally. Recently revealed were the firm's plans for the Kazakhstan Palace of Peace, which ignited some debate over the ethics of working in countries with dubious regimes, though its designs for a theatre at Governor's Island, New York, went unchallenged. This year's prestigious projects include designs for Dresden Station, the City of London's Moorhouse and the Supreme Court in Singapore.
4 Aedas Last year: 5
Aedas is also one of the phenomenal successes of the last year, jumping up one place, with an increase of 27 architects. Much of this success comes from a focus on the PFI market, with the practice collecting over £11 million in fees from PFI work alone. Aedas would also argue, probably fairly, that a lot of its achievements can be explained by a renewed passion for high-quality design, following the recruitment a couple of years ago of Richard Hyams from Fosters and Partners.
5 HOKLast year: 3
To say that HOK has had a tumultuous year would be an understatement. With national coverage of the enormously contentious Barts and Royal London PFI scheme in Whitechapel, the British office of this massive multinational has rarely been out of the headlines. The practice has ended the year on a high, by winning the mayor's support for the east London hospital. Never let it be said, though, that a focus on public sector design is not a profitable exercise: HOK was the second highest earner of fee income, raking in more than £39 million.
6 Nightingale Associates Last year: 6
Oxford-based Nightingale has continued its aggressive expansion by merging with Derek Hicks and Thew, together with education specialist Ash Design Consultants, making it the year's fourth fastest riser by number of registered architects. The practice has opened new offices in Exeter and Cape Town, with a Birmingham branch planned for later in 2005.
Healthcare remains at the core of Nightingale's business and the firm is currently designing the Peninsula Medical School to be sited at Exeter, Plymouth and Truro, and is preferred bidder on Peterborough's new PFI hospital scheme. Since the Ash merger, the practice is gunning for education projects, such as the government's £15 million Building Schools for the Future initiative. Nightingale has a higher proportion of female architects than the rest of the Top 20.
7 Capita Percy Thomas Last year: 8
What a year it's been for Capita. The massive support services firm bought the Welsh practice Percy Thomas for an undisclosed fee, adding the company's architects to its already healthy group and rocketing it into one of the AJ100's top positions. And watch out - the office's new boss Robert Firth, headhunted from Austin-Smith: Lord's Cardiff office, makes no secret of the fact that the company is determined to grow even more, promising that there will be at least two further acquisitions in the next 12 months. The undisputed highlight of Capita's year was the completion of the Wales Millennium Centre, which triggered an outpouring of local nationalistic sentiment.
8 Sheppard Robson Last year: =9
Sheppard Robson witnessed a massive growth in the number of architects on its books last year - the joint highest rise of any practice on the list. This incredible 47 per cent increase is down to the success of the firm's Manchester office, which has doubled in size in the past 12 months. One of the exciting new projects in the pipeline is the Chapel Wharf scheme - a five-tower residential development in Salford that has just been submitted for planning.
9 PRP Architects Last year: 7
Despite employing an extra 15 architects this year, PRP has dropped two places. But it has still been a good 12 months, according to the company's chairman Barry Munday, as it has 'focused on all the sectors that are buoyant at the moment'. Highlights of the year included the unveiling of a PRP-designed prefab house at the Urban Summit in Manchester as an exemplar in the ODPM's £60k house competition. However, unlike most of the Top 10, PRP is not doing much PFI work, apart from one small hospital and a housing scheme.
'We are suspicious of the sheer cost of bidding, ' Munday said.
10 Reid Architecture Last year: =9
Reid Architecture only dropped one place this year, due to such achievements as the completion of the £30 million Loughborough town centre redevelopment and winning the Architectural Practice of the Year title at the Builder & Engineer Awards. Two key projects for the coming year are a £200 million redevelopment of Luton town centre and a scheme to create a new cultural hub in Slough.
Reid's workforce includes six teachers, 43 amateur musicians, 62 part-time artists and one published poet.
11 Anshen Dyer Last year: =19
Now this really is a success story - from nowhere to the 10th biggest British practice in two years. In 2003, the company recruited 58 architects, making the firm the fastest riser, and has continued by picking up another 38, making it the second biggest increase of 2004.
If this is not evidence that the government's massive PFI healthcare building boom is good for business, what is? While the healthcare market is still booming, there must also be an interest in expanding into other sectors, as dependency on just one area of expertise is not necessarily the healthiest business model.
Where next can the firm go?
12 Broadway Malyan Last year: =13
Moving up one place on the AJ100 chart, Broadway Malyan has had a good year of consolidation. The firm's offices in Spain and Edinburgh are now coming nicely to fruition, with the company beginning to make its mark in the Spanish retail sector and in Scotland, securing the high-profile Princes Street shopping area in Edinburgh. The practice is also looking further afield, and has begun to make inroads into China, while also continuing to flourish in Europe. Housing is still a major focus, and the company's regeneration portfolio is bigger than last year. Broadway Malyan is currently involved in masterplanning and visioning for several depressed areas of the UK, particularly in the north-west, such as Skelmersdale, Whitehaven and Gorsdung.
Although the practice is known for residential and mixed-use schemes, Broadway Malyan's name also appeared on the shortlist for Retail Architect of the Year.!
13 Llewelyn Davies Re-entry Perhaps one of the more surprising announcements of the past few months was the news that multidisciplinary giant Llewelyn Davies had teamed up with eco-architect Ken Yeang. The practice is working with Yeang on the new Essex Design Initiative and hopes to unveil a jointly designed 'green scheme' later in the year. Less unexpected is a new strategic alliance with Watkins Gray to target the PFI/PPP markets in health and education. Meanwhile, Llewelyn Davies continues to thrive on international aviation projects, such as schemes in Jamaica and China, and has been selected to work on the £220 million revamp of Great Ormond Street Hospital. Among the larger projects in the pipeline is the new £40 million Huhhot domestic airport in Inner Mongolia.
Back home, the practice has also been selected to work on the £220 million revamp of Great Ormond Street Hospital.
=14 Allies and Morrison Re-entry Allies and Morrison, a very high re-entry, has spent its first year in its own building on Southwark Street, opposite its massive IPC building. The practice played a big part in the Olympics masterplan, along with Foreign Office Architects, HOK Sport and EDAW, and has also finished a spate of Oxbridge work. Other huge schemes include an application for the King's Cross masterplan, which was made last year - a complex one for Camden council. Areas to watch in the year ahead include a revised planning application for its conversion of two of the stands at Arsenal's Highbury stadium into residential units and a series of more residential schemes in Winchester and Oxford.
=14 RMJM Last year: =13 Only one subject dominated 2004 for Scotland's biggest practice, and that was the long-awaited completion of the Scottish Parliament building - a scheme that was originally conceived with the late, great Enric Miralles. 'The lows of 2004 included the Parliament building and the highs also included the Parliament building, ' was RMJM managing director Tony Kettle's neat synopsis of the past year's activities. Other schemes on the go for the practice at the moment include the competition-winning Beijing Olympic Convention Centre and a massive masterplan for the expansion of Edinburgh called Custom House Quay.
=16 Aukett Last year: 12
Aukett has famously merged with Fitzroy Robinson, but before the deal was completed in March, the firm was the employer of 72 architects. Given the comings and goings of 2004, including a shareholder rebellion followed by a boardroom takeover, this is probably a reasonable result. The combined firm would have found itself in 11th place.
While the merger deal can only be seen realistically as something of a rescue bid for the company, both sides insist that the two firms suit each other down to the ground, opening up international markets that neither would have been able to reach on their own. What is certain now is that results need to improve.
=16 RHWL Architects Last year: 11
The firm's most interesting scheme this year is the transformation of London's famous St Pancras Chambers, to start on site in 2006.
London's County Hall and the redevelopment of Coventry City's stadium are also ongoing.
18 Chetwood Associates Last year: =16
The practice's £40 million St Austell regeneration scheme may have been making all the headlines, but it also has many other projects, including a large mixed-use scheme in Maidenhead, the £120 million development of a new urban quarter in Brighton, and a £250 million scheme in Paddington Green.
19 Chapman Taylor Last year: 15
A small drop on last year for the retail specialist, but nothing for the firm's bosses to worry about immediately. AJ100's figures show that Chapman Taylor brings in more earnings from competitions than any other British firm.
20 Keppie Design Last year: 18
A combination of retail, healthcare and education projects has secured Keppie's position as Scotland's second largest practice.
The past year has seen the firm establish a foothold in Inverness and strengthen its presence in Northern Ireland. While the public sector accounts for 60 per cent of the practice's workload, it unveiled a .50 million (£34 million) contract to create a private hospital in Waterford, Ireland.
21 Benoy Last year: =19
A small drop for retail specialist Benoy - a real achievement given the fact that the firm completed the massive Bull Ring development in Birmingham. A lot of international work will have helped, along with its involvement in several retail-led UK shopping developments.
22 Stride Treglown Last year: 22
The biggest practice in the south-west has had another good year, maintaining its position.
Busy in the education sector, especially through PFI and framework agreements, the firm's completions in 2004 included an £18 million student residences scheme for the Royal Holloway, and a £25 million secondary school scheme for Cornwall Schools is on site.
The firm's London office is also developing proposals for a luxury hotel complex in Africa.