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Hudson Architects on surviving the recession

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Anthony Hudson, director of Hudson Architects, explains why relocating to Norwich was the best move for his practice

The recent recession was the most difficult challenge my practice has faced since its foundation in 2002. While others laid low, we faced the storm by relocating our main base to East Anglia.

I was brought up in Norfolk, and had always wanted to return to the region. Personal ambition aside, the need to reduce overheads hastened the decision, in 2011, to relocate from London to Norwich, where we already had a small office, while retaining a skeleton London presence.

The move gave us opportunities to plug into local networks, while reduced overheads allowed us to acquire a small Norfolk practice, which extended our local contacts and sustained residential fee income.

Staff numbers remained stable, enabling us to compete for new projects and extend our reach into the volume-housebuilding, leisure and education sectors.

The expansion of our education portfolio has been one of the main benefits of the move, which coincided with a major expansion programme at Norwich University of the Arts. Our local presence allowed us to win several projects including a new digital media centre, the refurbishment of several key teaching spaces, and the creation of a school of architecture, which opens this autumn.

I’ve never bought the patronising idea that practising outside London makes one a provincial architect. While our local presence is stronger, so too is our portfolio of new projects around the UK and overseas.

My team and I appreciate a great life/work balance, and we certainly don’t struggle to recruit new talent. I’m proud and amazed how well we have emerged from the recession – staff numbers increased by nearly 60 per cent last year and our profits quadrupled during the same period. This has allowed us to entrench our local presence further: we recently purchased larger offices with gallery space where we can show our work and, perhaps, host an urban room for the region.

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