240 employed architects, 25% female architects, second position in 2014
The year 2014 will be remembered by BDP. The last few have seen steady falls in both total fees and in the number of UK architects, but the past 12 months saw a bounce-back: turnover is up to £66 million while the number of architects employed in the UK has jumped from last year’s low of 203 to 240 this year. It’s not enough to take the firm to the top spot in the AJ120 – which it last held in 2011 before being usurped by Fosters – but it does bring a welcome halt to the downward trend of recent years.
‘We are feeling more positive about the future now than we have been for some time,’ says chairman David Cash, but he remains cautious about the effects the economy will have on work for UK practices.
We have to be concerned that austerity measures will reduce architectural work
‘Now that the election is over we have to be concerned that continuing – or re-energised – austerity measures will be introduced and that these will reduce architectural work. Although the last recession began in 2008, it was the public sector cuts after the 2010 election which resulted in a drastic downturn for so many practices, including BDP.’
The UK remains BDP’s most important market, with almost half of the practice’s revenue last year coming from UK-based work. Key projects completed in 2014 included the £430 million Southmead Hospital in Bristol and the £18 million St John Bosco Arts College in Liverpool.
Domestic work for the year ahead continues to look positive, with BDP currently working on a number of large projects including the £420 million Brighton Teaching Trauma and Tertiary Care Centre, a new £330 million global headquarters for AstraZeneca in Cambridge and the £80 million Copperas Hill campus development for Liverpool John Moores University. The practice also beat 70 other practices in a competition to design Gloucester’s new £6.4 million bus station.
Overseas, BDP’s Ireland office performed well, beating off five other practices including Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners to win work designing the €650 million (£465 million) New Children’s Hospital in Dublin, while there are also signs of an upturn in work in the Middle East, particularly in the UAE. Of more concern is China, where BDP continues to win work but faces increased competition; and Europe, where the economy remains fragile.
‘European markets remain steady with no signs yet of a real recovery,’ says Cash, adding that uncertainty in the EU could harm prospects for British practices. ‘Dysfunction in the Eurozone and the matter of the UK’s membership of the EU need to be resolved quickly as uncertainty will be unsettling.’
As well as a healthier bottom line, the practice has been buoyed by closer attention not just to the value and size of its megaprojects, but to the architecture of the firm, too.
In January, the practice’s Bank House in Leeds – completed in 1971 and formerly the Bank of England’s regional headquarters – was awarded Grade II*-listed status. This makes it the third BDP building to be listed after the Halifax Building and Preston Bus Station, and further associates the practice with the Brutalist landmarks of the North.
Preston Bus Station has regularly popped up in the media, first for the successful campaign to save the building, which had been threatened with demolition for almost a decade, and more recently as Lancashire County Council searches for a design team to modernise the bus station and to create a new youth club within the structure, a competition which attracted interest from more than 120 practices from 16 different countries.
The firm has long been appreciated as a dependable, ‘go to’ practice
BDP also gained praise for its work with artist Wolfgang Buttress and designer Tristan Simmonds to create the UK ‘beehive’ pavilion at the Milan Expo, which opened in May and is currently designing Croydon’s version of hipster shopping paradise Boxpark – made from upcycled shipping containers and set to open in 2016. The firm has long been appreciated as a dependable, ‘go to’ practice for large projects. But is BDP beginning to look a bit more fashionable too? More to the point, with all the financial figures moving in the right direction and a spate of new hires, might BDP snatch the crown back from Fosters this time next year?