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DATA ANALYSIS

AJ100 2020: Can architects recover the optimism they had in our pre-Coronavirus survey?

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The AJ100 survey presents a snapshot of a resilient and optimistic profession prior to the pandemic

Number of architects working at aj100 practices

It seems hard to imagine now, but AJ100 practices entered this year in a spirit of optimism after another resilient year for the profession. Bruce Tether, professor of management at the Alliance Manchester Business School at the University of Manchester and Research Director of the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre, analyses the data.

Asked to grade their expectations on a scale between very pessimistic and very optimistic, 65 per cent declared themselves to be optimistic, compared with 39 per cent last year.

A further 5 per cent identified as very optimistic, up from 2 per cent the year before.

Only 3 per cent were pessimistic, a fall from 13 per cent the year before, and none were very pessimistic. Last year’s largest group – ‘neutral’ (45 per cent) – had fallen to 27 per cent by the start of 2020.

This optimism was also reflected in growth expectations. Slightly more than half of the AJ100 practices expected to increase their architectural head count in the UK during 2020, while the remainder expected to remain the same size. Just one practice expected to become smaller.

This positive outlook seemed well-founded after a resilient year in which aggregate architecture fee income to UK offices rose by 5 per cent to £1.375 billion, while the number of architects employed at the AJ100 practices was fairly constant, nudging up from 6,972 to 7,001.

Given that this year’s cohort was 104 practices, one more than the year before, the figures are nearly equivalent, with the minimum number of employees for inclusion in the AJ100 this year – 26 – down two from the year before.

For the ninth year running, the largest employer of architects in the UK is Foster + Partners, with 381 architects – up 19 from last year.

BDP is again second, but has narrowed the gap to just 20, after increasing its architect numbers by 31.

After a rise in architects of 19 to 285, Allford Hall Monaghan Morris has overtaken Zaha Hadid Architects (270, down three) to move into third position.

Sheppard Robson (180, up three) has moved into fifth place, swapping places with Allies and Morrison (170, down 12). Grimshaw (152, up 10) remains in seventh position.

The top 10 is completed by Atkins (151, up 14); Hawkins\Brown (137, down three), Stride Treglown (125, up 12) and Scott Brownrigg (121, down 10). Together, these 10 account for nearly one third of all of the architects employed by the AJ100 practices, while the top 23 account for half of the AJ100’s architects.

Additional reporting by Pamela Buxton.

The AJ100

2020 RankPractice2019 rankQualified architects in UKPermanent staff in UKArchitecture fees paid to UK officesArchitecture fees paid to UK & overseas offices
1 Foster + Partners 1 381 1,172 198,132,000 234,267,000
2 BDP 2 361 1,016 57,186,000 84,218,000
3 Allford Hall Monaghan Morris 4 285 475 50,595,000 51,839,000
4 Zaha Hadid Architects 3 270 347 48,782,000 50,397,000
5 Sheppard Robson 6 180 350 22,434,000 22,434,000
6 Allies and Morrison 5 172 302 41,369,000 41,369,000
7 Grimshaw 7 152 293 27,974,000 62,678,000
8 Atkins 9 151 382 38,000,000 99,000,000
9 Hawkins\Brown 8 137 258 26,509,000 26,994,000
10 Stride Treglown 11 125 327 15,632,000 15,632,000
11 Scott Brownrigg 10 121 219 18,196,000 18,550,000
12 Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios 12= 119 221 14,740,000 14,740,000
13 WilkinsonEyre 17= 116 190 21,727,000 23,374,000
14 Squire & Partners 12= 111 174 18,801,000 18,801,000
15 tp bennett 14 107 310 29,125,000 29,125,000
16 EPR Architects 17= 104 175 17,500,000 17,696,000
17 Purcell 15 101 211 16,186,000 17,782,000
18 Pascall+Watson 21= 100 147 20,715,000 22,777,000
19 AHR 16 95 277 19,714,000 21,496,000
20 Pollard Thomas Edwards 21= 83 154 10,520,000 10,520,000
21 HTA Design 24 78 200 12,847,000 12,847,000
22 Broadway Malyan 23 74 203 19,609,000 46,492,000
23 Chapman Taylor 25= 73 176 17,196,000 39,019,000
24 Corstorphine + Wright 41= 71 199 14,965,000 18,145,000
25 Glenn Howells Architects 39 69 149 11,548,000 11,548,000
26= Hopkins Architects 28= 67 106 11,825,000 17,675,000
26= Jacobs 28= 67 7,500 12,600,000 892,600,000
28= Buckley Gray Yeoman 28= 66 98 10,265,000 10,265,000
28= jmarchitects 27 66 107 6,674,000 6,674,000
28= Levitt Bernstein 32= 66 124 8,928,000 8,928,000
31 Perkins&Will 47= 65 180 21,250,000 21,250,000*
32 Darling Associates 25= 64 115 8,241,000 8,241,000
33= HLM Architects 35 63 201 11,073,000 11,073,000
33= Ryder Architecture 36= 63 183 13,148,000 14,678,000
35= Fletcher Priest Architects 32= 61 106 8,311,000 8,311,000
35= Jestico + Whiles 45= 61 96 9,417,000 10,107,000
37= 3DReid 36= 60 124 10,382,000 10,382,000
37= ADP 36= 60 96 7,850,000 8,050,000
37= PLP Architecture 20 60 166 18,006,000 18,006,000
40 JTP 41= 58 123 11,519,000 11,519,000
41= IBI Group 44 55 218 14,000,000 213,862,000
41= WATG 70= 55 125 9,579,000 53,788,000
43 KSS 40 54 97 8,415,000 8,415,000
44= Donald Insall Associates 28= 52 106 9,000,000 9,000,000
44= Formation Architects 54= 52 81 5,358,000 5,358,000
46 Chetwoods 54= 50 73 4,900,000 4,900,000
47= Assael Architecture 49= 49 99 8,730,000 8,730,000
47= AWW 56= 49 95 6,520,000 6,520,000
47= Bryden Wood 51= 49 212 9,278,000 9,278,000
47= Weston Williamson + Partners 49= 49 90 9,800,000 17,800,000
51 Bond Bryan 59= 48 133 7,961,000 7,961,000
52 PDP London 66= 47 87 6,644,000 8,134,000
53= FaulknerBrowns 45= 46 104 7,300,000 7,430,000
53= SimpsonHaugh and Partners 53 46 92 8,470,000 8,470,000
55 Ellis Williams Architects 43 45 62 4,277,000 4,781,000
56= Eric Parry Architects 64= 44 67 5,358,000 5,733,000
56= Orms 70= 44 68 6,550,000 6,550,000
56= Pick Everard 56= 44 559 9,451,000 9,451,000
59= Haworth Tompkins New 43 85 6,997,000 6,997,000
59= Maccreanor Lavington 59= 43 73 3,820,000 7,100,000
59= NORR 32= 43 91 6,176,000 81,138,000
62 TODD Architects 64= 42 70 4,678,000 5,220,000
63= CDA 70= 40 70 4,750,000 4,750,000
63= LSI Architects 66= 40 82 4,300,000 4,300,000
65= Arup Architecture Re-entry 39 5,634 12,400,000 22,750,000
65= BPTW 56= 39 113 6,321,000 6,321,000
67= Dexter Moren Associates 74= 38 73 4,230,000 4,230,000
67= Falconer Chester Hall 70= 38 71 6,900,000 6,900,000
67= Hadfield Cawkwell Davidson 85= 38 72 3,780,000 3,780,000
70= Aukett Swanke 59= 37 81 6,988,000 21,348,000
70= DLA Design Group 66= 37 105 8,074,000 8,074,000
70= Populous 74= 37 92 21,234,000 176,148,000
73= Associated Architects 82= 36 68 5,500,000 5,500,000
73= Keppie Design 59= 36 92 6,124,000 6,124,000
73= Maber 82= 36 66 3,900,000 3,900,000
76= NPS Group 66= 35 668 11,950,000 11,950,000
76= rg+p 77= 35 115 4,236,000 4,236,000
76= Stephen George + Partners 85= 35 75 6,964,000 6,964,000
79= John Robertson Architects 91= 34 53 5,096,000 5,096,000
79= Pozzoni Architecture 76 34 68 4,434,000 4,434,000
79= The Harris Partnership 77= 34 157 11,168,000 11,168,000
82= ECE Group 82= 33 94 5,613,000 5,613,000
82= Holmes Miller 91= 33 61 4,110,000 4,210,000
84= Cartwright Pickard New 32 45 4,375,000 4,375,000
84= The Fairhursts Design Group 85= 32 48 3,500,000 3,500,000
86= LOM architecture and design Re-entry 31 47 5,291,000 5,291,000
86= Rolfe Judd 51= 31 86 7,900,000 8,000,000
86= Studio Egret West New 31 68 3,842,000 3,842,000
89= Architype 85= 30 50 3,200,000 3,200,000
89= Ayre Chamberlain Gaunt New 30 44 2,872,000 2,872,000
89= HOK 91= 30 130 18,860,000 339,517,000
89= RH Partnership Architects 98= 30 51 3,528,000 3,528,000
93= Buttress Re-entry 29 47 2,650,000 2,650,000
93= Leonard Design 100= 29 69 5,968,000 6,003,000
93= Stiff+Trevillion Architects New 29 57 6,164,000 6,164,000
93= TateHindle 77= 29 54 4,864,000 4,864,000
97= 5plus architects 91= 27 51 5,168,000 5,168,000
97= Hyphen New 27 65 5,000,000 11,500,000
97= Page\Park 91= 27 37 2,500,000 2,500,000
100= Apt 100= 26 41 5,000,000 5,000,000
100= Conran and Partners 100= 26 72 2,089,000 2,673,000
100= Gaunt Francis Architects 91= 26 44 2,837,000 2,837,000
100= P+HS Architects New 26 76 4,702,000 4,701,000
100= Powell Dobson Architects Re-entry 26 71 4,100,000 4,100,000
2020 RankPractice                                      
2019 rankQualified architects in UKPermanent staff in UKArchitecture fees paid to UK officesArchitecture fees paid to UK & overseas offices

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All fees rounded to nearest £1,000   *Perkins&Will architecture fees for UK offices only


Aggregate UK employment of architects increased by 140, with more than half (57) of the practices increasing their head count of architects among the 99 practices appearing on both this and last year’s lists.

In absolute terms, BDP grew fastest, adding 31 architects in the UK, followed by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris and Fosters, both of which added 19, then Wilkinson Eyre (+18) and WATG (+17).

In relative terms, WATG led the pack with a 45 per cent increase in its number of UK architects, followed by Perkins&Will (+27 per cent, which includes the acquisition of Penoyre and Prasad) and Corstorphine + Wright (+25 per cent).

In absolute terms, PLP reduced its architect head count by the most (down 33), followed by NORR (-21). Together with Rolfe Judd (-17), these firms reduced their architect head count by a third or more.

Aggregate architecture fee income

In terms of numbers of architectural staff, Corstorphine + Wright reported the greatest absolute and relative expansion (+47; up 36 per cent), followed by BDP (+43), Atkins (+40), Fosters (+37) and AHMM and Jacobs (both +36).

Squire and Partners reported the greatest absolute contraction in architectural staff (-38), while in relative terms Rolfe Judd contracted the most (-39 per cent). Populous, Bond Bryan and NORR also reported contracting their architectural staff by 25 per cent.

This year, the AJ100’s total number of permanently employed architectural staff was 12,053, up 29 on the previous year, while total permanent employment including non-architectural staff was 29,102, up 1,411 on last year’s total.

As always, this figure is heavily influenced by the few large multidisciplinary businesses in the AJ100 – Atkins and Jacobs alone account for about 45 per cent of this employment. Fosters and BDP remain the largest ‘pure’ architecture practice employers, with 1,172 and 1,016 permanent employees respectively.

During 2019, 10 practices opened new offices in the UK, three fewer than last year. Three of these were in London (Broadway Malyan, Corstorphine + Wright, Stephen George + Partners), two in Leeds (Purcell and tp bennett), and one each in Birmingham, Cambridge, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Manchester. Seven practices also anticipated opening UK offices during 2020 and three anticipated closing offices during 2020.

Number of UK architects employed by AJ100 practices 1995 2019

These pre-pandemic findings of a stable and optimistic picture broadly tally with the data from the RIBA’s Future Trends survey, according to RIBA executive director professional services Adrian Dobson.

‘The overall pattern is similar, but the Future Trends data suggests that 2019 was a little more muted for practices in general than the AJ100, with workloads being maintained but at a level about 10 per cent below 2018, and employment levels remaining good, but salaries slightly depressed,’ he says.

‘I agree that last year was one of resilience – I’d say 2019 was a surprisingly good year,’ said Vince Nacey of building industry analysts The Fees Bureau, adding that, while the impact of Covid-19 on the profession is currently unknowable, the inevitable recession will be far worse than the last one.

Recovery may depend on how far the government will be willing, or able, to stimulate the public sector.

What is your outlook for 2020

‘Architects generally suffer far greater in comparison with construction in general, and construction suffers far more than overall GDP. Even if GDP falls by just 1 per cent, we’d expect a 12 per cent ensuing fall in the architectural market, and we’re looking at something far grimmer than that,’ he says. 

Dobson anticipates some recovery as construction sites get back up and running, but says that concerns persist over client confidence and the future pipeline of work.

‘Our best guess at present is that we will see a sharp contraction in architectural workloads in late summer or autumn but that, with the right government stimulus to public and private sector investment and the re-invigoration of the housing market, there could still be a strong recovery in 2021,’ he says.

More data insight from AJ100 2020 – including fees and salaries – will be published throughout the week

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Great to read your AJ100, -why wasn't Gensler listed ????

    John Hiscocks

    john@hiscocksarchitecture.co.uk

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