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Architecture could take £1 billion hit from pandemic

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The architecture sector could shrink by £1 billion this year, research has shown, as Covid-19 rips through the creative industries

A study by forecasting specialists Oxford Economics found that revenue for building design could be down by nearly a quarter (24 per cent) in 2020. 

For context, this £1 billion contraction equates to almost three-quarters of the £1.38 billion aggregate architecture fee income earned last year by the UK practices in the latest AJ100 league table.

The Creative Industries Federation, which commissioned the research, warned of a ‘cultural catastrophe’ as businesses are forced to remain closed, projects are put on hold and people stay away from events.

Some 1,800 architecture jobs are predicted to be slashed this year as part of almost 120,000 redundancies across the broader cultural sector.

Creative Industries Federation chief executive Caroline Norbury said: ‘If nothing is done, thousands of world-leading creative businesses are set to close their doors, hundreds of thousands of jobs will be lost and billions will be lost to our economy. The repercussions would have a devastating and irreversible effect on our country.’

The repercussions could be devastating and irreversible 

Norbury called for a ‘cultural renewal fund’ to be created to help the vulnerable in the sector, including those yet to return to work, those unable to operate fully due to social distancing and those who fall through the gaps of government support.

‘As well as being a huge driver of economic growth in every part of the UK, our creative and cultural sectors bring communities together, employ millions and are at the heart of our soft power,’ she said. ‘These are the industries of the future: highly innovative, resistant to automation and integral to both our cultural identity and the nation’s mental health. We’re about to need them more than ever.’

RIBA chief executive Alan Vallance said the institute was ‘extremely concerned’ about the future of architecture.

Architects, working with others within the creative industries, have a vital role to play in re-energising the economy and building and strengthening communities,’ he said. ‘We need the government to invest in a green economic recovery, for the sector and the country.’

London is projected to experience the highest drop in creative industry output, but Scotland and the North East are expected to take the hardest hit in relative terms. Both could lose more than a third of their value this year, according to the report.

The music industry is predicted to lose £3 billion, theatres a similar amount and the film and TV led industry about £36 billion. Museums and galleries could lose £743 million.

More than one in four respondents to a poll run by the RIBA in May said they expected the permanent headcount at their practice to decrease by August.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • How is it remotely helpful to architects to be lumped in with TV, film and music? Architects are an inextricable part of the construction economy.

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  • Industry Professional

    Considering that the major cost of running an architectural practice is staffing cost, surely the statement "... revenue for building design could be down by nearly a quarter (24 per cent) in 2020." will equate to an equivalent job loss percentage? So around 20% not 2%?

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