This year’s AJ100 data offers the clearest evidence yet that the profession has contracted in the face of continued disquiet fuelled by Brexit uncertainty
The annual barometer of the health of UK architecture shows that, for the first time in four years, the total number of architects working for the country’s largest firms has dropped.
The 106 practices that make up this year’s cohort collectively employed 6,782 ARB-registered or equivalent architects in the UK at the start of 2018, a dip from 6,853 in the previous year (also 106 practices).
AJ100 Analysis Graphs
Almost half of the AJ100 practices (45) have reduced their head count of architects, compared with just 28 in the previous year. And although 46 firms increased their head count, that number is significantly lower than the 65 who added architects the year before. A further 10 remained the same year-on-year.
The five firms that prop up the bottom of the table each employed 25 architects – one fewer than was needed to qualify for last year’s list.
However, the survey shows the combined UK architectural workforce of the AJ100 practices was 11,787, which is similar to last year.
According to Adrian Dobson, RIBA executive director professional services, who collates the institute’s separate Future Trends survey, workloads across the profession have levelled off, having grown each year since 2012. He describes the current market for architectural services as ‘lacking a great deal of momentum’.
‘Workload hasn’t been going up for a while,’ he says. ‘The big thing in our data is that London is still much more pessimistic than the rest of the country, which we think is to do with Brexit, whether real or psychological. Certainly it’s London that’s feeling the pain.’
According to the AJ100 survey of the profession, the level of optimism among AJ100 practices has declined for the third year running.
Fifty-four per cent of AJ100 companies are either very or moderately optimistic about the year ahead, compared with 64 per cent for the previous year and 84 per cent for 2015.
Perhaps due to market uncertainty, 40 per cent were neutral, with 6 per cent pessimistic and none very pessimistic.
Yet, despite this trend, most practices still reported that they expect to grow through 2018.
Asked whether they expected to increase or decrease their number of architects in the UK over the next 12 months, 90 reported that they expected to add staff, while only eight expected to contract.
This is a continuation of the previous year’s optimism, when all but 10 of the AJ100 practices expected to grow in the UK during 2017 despite market caution in relation to Brexit. Levels of optimism depend on sector, with many practices that work broadly across sectors expressing most confidence.
The full rankings and all the winners of all the AJ100 awards will be announced at the AJ100 gala dinner at the Tower of London on Wednesday (13 June).