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Grimshaw wins AJ100 Practice of the Year 2019

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Grimshaw is this year’s AJ100 Practice of the Year on the back of serious business growth combined with exemplary design and a diversity strategy one judge described as ‘astonishing’

The practice, which has moved up two places in the rankings to seventh, has seen its pool of UK architectural staff grow by 25 per cent and is thriving in various locations around the world. In this country, it is working on mega-schemes including HS2 stations at Euston and Birmingham’s Curzon Street and the expansion of Heathrow Airport. Last year fees rose by 32 per cent with global profit up by 14 per cent.

But it was Grimshaw’s ongoing efforts to shake up its work culture and office diversity that gave it an additional edge this year. The most visible aspects of these include last year’s appointment of a female managing partner in Kirsten Lees and, earlier this year, sending an all-women team to the MIPIM property fair, including newly recruited principal and diversity campaigner Angela Dapper.

Grimshaw kutubu convention centre in papa new guinea

Grimshaw kutubu convention centre in papa new guinea

Kutubu Convention Centre, Papua New Guinea

Beneath the surface, the AJ100 survey numbers reveal the diversity drive is a work in progress. The architects working at Grimshaw are 41 per cent female while 15 per cent are from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds. While that leaves room for improvement, there are clear signs the practice is going in the right direction. For example, two years ago, the proportion of female associates was 30 per cent. Today it is 50 per cent. And while Lees is currently the only woman among nine Grimshaw partners, the proportion of female architects at all levels of the practice has seen double-digit growth over the past 24 months.

The practice recently hosted its first ‘Diversity and Inclusion’ week covering issues such as the gender pay gap and LGBT+ representation; it has produced a diversity plan based on eight key actions to effect change; and it has introduced an advocate in every office to oversee and push forward this agenda. 

‘The work they are doing in diversity is remarkable and should impact on other big practices,’ one judge remarked. Another said: ‘They are taking a risk by changing the way they operate and are using their size and resource to great advantage. Grimshaw seems to be cost-focused rather than profit-focused and that means they can focus on process and on quality of design not just on “getting it done”.’

And all of this internal reform comes at a time of great exposure for Grimshaw, including numerous accolades for its £1 billion London Bridge station revamp– this year’s AJ100 Building of the Year – and the award of the RIBA Gold Medal to founder Nicholas Grimshaw. A clear pattern of success. Will Hurst

Shortlisted

  • Assael Architecture
  • BDP
  • Darling Associates
  • Hawkins\Brown
  • HTA Design
  • JTP
  • Scott Brownrigg

Judges

  • Pooja Agrawal, regeneration officer, Greater London Authority 
  • Marion Baeli, partner, PDP London 
  • Andrew Barraclough, group design director, Wates
  • Naila Yousuf, senior associate, Wright & Wright Architects
  • Will Hurst, managing editor, The Architects’ Journal 

AJ100 Practice of the Year sponsored by

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