bdp, the uk's largest employer of architects, is restructuring itself in line with the findings of the Egan report as a number of 'sub-brands'. Chairman Richard Saxon said, 'If we do not set up a more focused approach in supply-chain alliances, we will be finished.'
Saxon was referring to the requirements of the Egan report for organisations to become customer-focused rather than supply-focused, and the need for 'lean thinking' which 'says that you have to have a stable organisation supply chain, which either serves the same customer or seeks work in an area described as generic'.
The result, believes Saxon, will be an intensification of the organisation's skills in particular markets, with dedicated experts leading the teams and a core of more junior staff with transferable skills moving between them as workload demands. This process has already started with the establishment of bdp Workspace, the division which designed the Opel headquarters (see page 32), and others are planned. 'I am trying to move us from an informal series of specialists under one brand, bdp,' said Saxon, 'toward a more formal series developing their own brands.'
As well as the Egan report, the Private Finance Initiative is a driving force behind these developments. Successful consortia are likely to continue their association on future projects, and their acquired experience will make them increasingly competitive. In prisons, said Saxon, it is already the case that the successful consortia in the first two rounds of bidding are the only ones that are now viable. 'The government is getting prisons for less and less,' he said, 'and the companies are getting more and more profits.'
With time he believes these consortia will become increasingly prominent as brands (in retail-speak, they will become 'category killers'), although they will still be made up of groupings from individual organisations. bdp's aim is to be part of such a leading consortium in every sector, with the possible exception of retail. In that sector it already has several alliances, and would expect more than one of them to continue.
But this creation of a number of sub-brands (to the brands represented by the consortia) will not involve a complete fragmentation of bdp, says Saxon. 'The real specialisations will lie with the leaders, not the broad mass of staff,' he said. ' The skills of the people supporting these areas are quite generic, for example designing reinforcing bars.'
He is in no doubt that the company is considering a massive change in culture, but believes this is essential. 'How does the firm come to exist as a series of supply chains?' he asked. 'I can see the tension, but it will be quite creative.'
rmjm has revealed its design for a new £11 million computer laboratory for the University of Cambridge (aj 30.7.98) which includes a research facility funded by Microsoft. Construction starts next year
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Rachel Whiteread - British representative at last year's Venice Biennale, Turner Prize winner, and creator of 'House' - has just completed a work in New York: a translucent resin addition to Manhattan's roofscape of water towers. It sits on top of a building at the corner of West Broadway and Grand Street, in the heart of SoHo. Beck's contributed the funding.