RMJM’s top designers have set up a new ‘design powerhouse’ to lead the embattled global practice into a new era
Headed by Paul Stallan (pictured) the newly created Paul Stallan Studio effectively combines RMJM’s Edinburgh and Glasgow’s offices in a new design house (see new website here). It is understood to be the first of a number of potential design studios that could be rebranded with their own identities while remaining under the RMJM umbrella.
Starchitect Will Alsop had already set up a similarly autonomous design house in London, Will Alsop @ RMJM, although the AJ has reported (AJ 23.06.2011) rumours that Alsop could leave the practice later this summer.
Stallan, a former executive director of Architecture & Design Scotland and an employee of RMJM for 16 years, will work alongside Alistair Brand, the studio’s managing principal, and is joined by fellow directors Paul Rodgers, Ian Harper, Neil McLean and Conor Pittman.
He said: ‘This is a new model for architects where a unique design practice can be supported by a global infrastructure.’
According to insiders, both Stallan and Brand have had been approached by other practices but one source described Stallan as ‘fiercely loyal’ to RMJM owner Fraser Morrison, with whom he worked 15 years ago when he landed the Falkirk Wheel project with Morrison Construction.
Earlier this year Morrison and his son, Peter, RMJM’s current chief executive, oversaw an £8 million refinancing deal to tackle cashflow problems at the AJ100 top 20 practice. The rescue package was revealed in the wake of a defection of 35 RMJM Hong Kong staff to Aedas, amid allegations the company had failed to pay staff on time.
Among the project on the books of the Paul Stallan Studio are the 2014 Commonwealth Games Village in Glasgow and schemes in Kula Lumpur, Shanghai, Riyhad and Rio de Janeiro. The practice has also just won the refurbishment of the Gillespie Kidd and Coia’s Brutalist St Brides Church in East Kilbride having beaten off Page/ Park and James Stephens Architects.
Robin Lee, the founder of Robin Lee Architecture and former director of NORD, who has taught with Stallan, said: ‘Stallan is a fantastic talent. The bespoke studio format within the RMJM organisation will give Stallan’s office more credit for the work it is doing and would allow them freedom to develop an ethos unimpeded by bigger business issues.’
Alan Dunlop, founder of Alan Dunlop Architect, said: ‘I’m contacted regularly by the press to comment on the latest problems at RMJM and my response is guarded because I am aware of the damage it may do to Paul Stallan and his team in Glasgow - unfairly. My view is that Paul is an exceptional architect who runs a highly talented young office, which is a credit to RMJM’s whole organisation. He deserves support for his work and I wish him well in any new venture.’
Graeme Laughlan of Raw Architecture Workshop, said: ‘[The news] doesn’t surprise me. I suspect Paul was a major driving force behind RMJM’s continual evolution over the past few years.’