The SMC board is considering the separation of Will Alsop’s practice from the rest of the group under a proposal which could also see the remaining architects relinquish their identities under one brand name.
A senior source within the SMC group told the AJ that when the firm rebrands – potentially as Invitra (AJ 15.05.08) it will also announce the creation of the new operating company underneath the umbrella name.
SMC managing director Chris Littlemore refused to discuss possible names for this operating company, however, the AJ understands that Life is one of the favoured options.
It would be under this banner that all the non-Alsop SMC practices would operate. Both Alsop and Littlemore confirmed that the two had met last Wednesday (28 May) to discuss the proposal, but neither would divulge further details.
However, Alsop, who is believed to have explored possible exit routes to end his two-year association with the SMC Group, appeared to embrace Littlemore’s proposed strategy. He said: ‘We are a strong brand in the group and it seems a sensible option’.
None of the SMC practices contacted by the AJ would speak on record, but one source said that he would be ‘very much against losing the name of the practice’. However the source added: ‘It is clear we have to rebrand’.
In a separate development, the AJ has learned that SMC Penrose’s Plymouth office has closed with a number of redundancies. The firm’s Exeter office has absorbed those staff that were retained.
Founder Ian Penrose, who stood down as managing director six months ago, has cut his hours to only two days a week and a source close to him said he was keen to leave the group.
Penrose was unavailable for comment, but the firm’s lead director, Ian Hodder, brushed off suggestions that the practice was struggling.
He said: ‘I see a lot of positives at the moment, we are bidding for a big leisure job in Plymouth and we have our MOD work. My perception is that this is genuinely quite an exciting time’.