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Big studios lure small practices

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A raft of smaller practices and founders of boutique studios are choosing to join up with substantially larger outfits, the AJ has learned

Among the most high-profile ‘moves’ is Yuli Toh, co-founder of London-based healthcare specialists Toh Shimazaki, who has rejoined Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (RSHP) after almost 15 years.

Toh will return as a senior architect on the £3.5 billion regeneration of the Barangaroo district of Sydney (pictured) – an appointment that brings together her ‘two dreams’ of working in Australia and for RSHP. She said: ‘This project is going to last many years and I’m looking forward to see it through to completion.

‘Takero [Shimazaki] will take over at the helm of the practice which is currently doing rather well. It was a studio I co-founded, so it will always be in my heart. However, I’ve been working in practice for 28 years and this move falls in with my personal plan that I drew up five years ago.’

Elsewhere, Manchester’s A-Cube has been wound up and its founder Faheem Aftab and two staff have joined Mancunian practice Leach Rhodes Walker, bringing a portfolio of public sector projects with them.

In London, Azhar has also made the move from running his own practice – the now non-operational Azhar Architecture – to working for a large commercial outfit and is now a director at Conran & Partners.

He said: ‘I’m no longer the lone ranger. It’s really enjoyable working alongside talented directors I respect, and it’s a great opportunity to be part of an ambitious company with plans to grow and expand globally.’

This emerging trend is a reversal of the fragmentation of the profession that resulted in a host of new practices set up in the last two years. Lindsay Urquhart, of agency Bespoke Careers, said: ‘I’ve met a number of small business owners recently who are either considering joining a larger practice in the UK or relocating to a larger organisation overseas.

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