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'Fastest riser' Gensler to axe staff

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Gensler has become the latest big-name architectural practice to cut staff, the AJ has learned. Staff will hear this week whether they face redundancy.

Director Tony Harbour confirmed that the practice will shed staff in 'double figures', but he denied industry rumours that as many as 30 jobs were in jeopardy. The news is especially significant because Gensler, ranked seventh in the AJ Top 100 two months ago, also topped the list of 'fastest risers' by employing 66 per cent more architects than it did in the previous year.

Harbour said he wants to redefine the profile of his employees in line with the work the practice was now carrying out - Gensler will continue to recruit architects with masterplanning and retail experience, as well as graphics specialists. But junior and middle-ranking architects with less experience in these fields are in the firing line.

The redundancies can also be explained by the loss of projects such as the £25 million redevelopment of Farnborough airfield, won by Geoffrey Reid Associates in March (AJ 29.3.01).And in February, London mayor Ken Livingstone ordered the London Borough of Lambeth to reverse consent for a 50,000m 2scheme near Waterloo Station.

Harbour insisted that the practice would not be operating a system of last-in, first-out, but would make the changes according to 'skills and performance'. But salt will be rubbed into wounds of those laid off because Harbour has already earmarked 15 June as the day 'quite substantial' bonuses will be announced to staff remaining with the firm.

'Some people are being moved around and some are being asked to leave, ' said Harbour. 'This is something that should happen in all organizations.We think of it as a very positive thing.'

Gensler is not the only practice to lay off staff.

Earlier this month it emerged that Nicholas Grimshaw & Partners was to shed around 30 staff - about half of them architects. The practice is undergoing a 30-day period of consultation with those affected, which comes to an end on 3 June.

The lay-offs will whittle the practice down to 80 people, the level it had in the late 1990s.

But help is at hand from rivals, who have approached Grimshaw with job offers for redundant staff. Personnel officer Miranda Cooke said more than 30 firms have approached the practice.

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