The UK’s largest practice, Foster + Partners, says it would consider moving its headquarters from London if Brexit meant it could no longer attract the world’s best architects
The company, which has topped the AJ100 rankings for the seventh year in a row, told the AJ that uncertainty over the UK’s withdrawal from the EU was a major concern for the practice.
Less than a quarter of the architects based at Foster + Partners’ huge Battersea head office are UK nationals – with around a half from EU countries. In total, the firm employs 1,061 staff in the UK including 353 architects.
Speaking to the AJ, managing partner Matthew Streets said: ‘We don’t want to leave London, but we – like any business – would have to consider that. If [Brexit means] we can’t attract world talent then we would have to go to somewhere where we can.’
Streets said that the practice needed to employ the globe’s brightest stars to maintain its position as ‘world leaders’.
‘Bluntly, the government needs to give us some more clarity on residency, immigration and on the framework for professional services,’ he said, adding that the practice had been actively lobbying government behind the scenes on Brexit.
Foster + Partners’ studio
Earlier this week it emerged that Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners also has serious concerns about how the UK’s departure from the EU will affect its workforce.
The practice said an increasing number of its European workers were applying for British citizenship to avoid being forced to leave.
In a statement accompanying its latest accounts, the company said: ‘[The] ongoing lack of clarity regarding the Brexit process has … added to the level of uncertainty for architecture both home and abroad.’
‘There is clearly an ongoing process of readjustment and we are already seeing this in terms of our staffing, with a significant portion of our non-UK staff seeking to naturalise and obtain UK passports where possible.
‘We are worried about how Brexit will affect not only our own recruitment and retention of the best architectural talent from across the Eurozone, but also how it will affect UK architecture as a whole.’
The document continued: ‘We are also concerned about the likelihood of UK architects being able to compete for EU public building commissions in a post-Brexit world.’
According to the latest AJ100 data, the total number of ARB qualified architects employed at Foster + Partners dropped again slightly, dipping from 383 in 2017 to 353 this year.
Interdisciplinary giant BDP has, meanwhile, closed in on the top spot, more than halving the gap in the last 12 months to just 45 architects.
Main photo by Gili Merin