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AJ 100

01 / BDP Last year: 01 Number of architects: 301 Female architects: 23 per cent Another year, another first-place for BDP.

The practice, which enlisted another 20 architects during the last 12 months, has prevented the SMC juggernaut ploughing its way to pole position - at least for now.

BDP chief Peter Drummond admits the practice needs to be 'resilient' to maintain its own steady growth. Healthcare work continues to be erratic, with the Leicester Hospitals PFI project stuttering along and the firm's Torbay PFI scheme still 'on stop'.

But that has not prevented the commercial big-hitter opening a new outpost in Birmingham and bagging a brace of hospital schemes in Scotland. Things are looking increasingly rosy overseas too, following the link-up with French associate practice Groupe 6. Meanwhile in Liverpool, the practice's enormous Paradise Street project is motoring forward and the firm's new office in Piccadilly Basin, Manchester - which will house 280 staff - is already on site. Both are due to complete next year.

BDP's AJ100 domination appears unassailable - but a year is a long time in architecture and anything could happen.

Merseyside 02 / SMC GROUP Last year: N/A Number of architects: 270 Female architects: 11 per cent Widely expected to leap into first position, the phenomenon that is SMC turned out to have rather fewer architects than was believed when the strictest criteria were applied to AJ100 qualification. Nevertheless, it has been an exceptional year. In September, the firm bought three Scottish practices in a day.

Chief executive Stewart McColl seemed to be breakfasting daily on potential acquisitions. In December he claimed to be looking at a £2.5 billion slice of the global architecture market. The brakes went on in February 2007, when SMC was forced to issue a profits warning and McColl stepped into the position of deputy chairman. Meanwhile, the constituent practices have been winning work, not least SMC Alsop, with a proposal for a 43-storey tower on Old Street roundabout, London. Expect more fireworks next year.

03 / FOSTER + PARTNERS Last year: 03 Number of architects: 236 Female architects: 14 per cent Foster ended months of speculation at the beginning of May by announcing an investment deal with privateequity group 3i, which bought a minority stake in Foster + Partners. The 71 year old also unveiled a restructuring of the executive board, installing himself as chairman and Mouzhan Majidi as chief executive. The move will allow the firm to continue to spread its wings geographically. It has already picked up its first Latin American project in Argentina, and is working on schemes in Calgary and Kazakhstan. In the UK, Foster is building yet more City Academies, and Wembley Stadium finally finished.

04 / ATKINS Last year: 06 Number of architects: 199 Female architects: 17 per cent Vaulting back to fourth position after a fall in the rankings last year, the Olympic masterplanner has added 32 architects in 12 months. Besides its masterplanning role, it is designing the Olympic sailing centre in Weymouth, Dorset. Almost synonymous with tall buildings in Dubai, the practice has another showstopper on the books in the form of a 32-storey mixed-use tower shaped like an up-ended clamshell in Iris Bay. Another Middle East project, Bahrain World Trade Centre, netted the firm a Leaf (Leading European Architects Forum) Award. Closer to home, it has been asked to produce an alternative proposal to the recently rejected Stanton Williams scheme for Sloane Square. And, at a time when the practice is planning aggressive expansion in architecture, it has poached former Hopkins star Martin Pease from Stride Treglown.

05 / CAPITA PERCY THOMAS Last year: 05 Number of architects: 198 Female architects: 11 per cent 'There are more purchases on the horizon', we reported last year, and the practice promptly bought Ruddle Wilkinson. But owner Capita Symonds reported disappointing margins in the -rst half of 2006. Key projects include Derby City hospital, and an airport hotel in Lagos, Nigeria. August saw Birmingham City Council parachute the practice into its troubled library project. Expect more high-pro-le schemes under new design director Andrew Pryke, previously of John McAslan and Michael Wilford.

06 / AEDAS ARCHITECTS Last year: 02 Number of architects: 190 Female architects: 24 per cent Biggest blow last year was the departure of design director Richard Hyams in September. Hyams has set up his own practice, Astudio. Aedas is specialising in City Academies, including one to replace London's Holland Park school. It's also doing well with towers, with the Legs project in Abu Dhabi, a four-tower scheme in Salford and an 80-storey skyscraper in Karachi, Pakistan.

07 / HOK/HOK SPORT Last year: 06 Number of architects: 181 Female architects: 33 per cent Arsenal FC's Emirates Stadium opened in August, although its ambition was dwarfed by the contract to design the London Olympics stadium. Other projects include converting Northern Ireland's Maze prison into a sports venue. Non-sports schemes include a Docklands tower based on an Aalto vase. HOK has also masterplanned the £150 million redevelopment of Aberdeen's Bon Accord shopping centre.

08 / NIGHTINGALE ASSOCIATES Last year: 03 Number of architects: 146 Female architects: 42 per cent Nightingale Associates has always been associated with healthcare design, but with the perilous state of the market it is not surprising that it has been looking to new horizons - which it has managed with the appointment to design a 29-storey mixed-use tower in Croydon. That said, the practice lost nearly 30 architects over the course of a year.

But it is certainly not turning its back on healthcare, with expert Richard Mazuch working with external partners on creating an environment to promote healing - to be the subject of an exhibition this autumn.

= 09 / BENOY Last year: 09 Number of architects: 133 Female architects: 20 per cent A year of growth for Benoy, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary by venturing into new projects as far a-eld as India, where it is designing three market cities, and Abu Dhabi, where it has designed the Ferrari Experience - a boys' toys extravaganza opening in 2009. Closer to home, it is one of the names working on the massive Salford Media City: UK for Peel Holdings. In December 2006 it was declared one of three winners of a Cathay Paci-c Award for business success in Hong Kong, where it has completed more than 90 retail projects.

= 09 / PRP ARCHITECTS Last year: 08 Number of architects: 133 Female architects: 30 per cent Although the practice saw a 2.9 per cent rise in turnover last year, pro-ts slid from £493,005 (before tax) in 2005 to £246,311 in 2006. However, directors anticipate growth in 2007 - plans for a housing scheme at Cardington Air-eld, near Bedford, have been unveiled.

Internationally, the -rm is working in Russia, Ukraine, Montenegro, France and Spain: in Moscow it has designed the Rublevo Residence, a £50 million luxury housing project.

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