David Adjaye has spoken in detail for the first time about his financial troubles, claiming that grappling with the prospect of insolvency has proved to be a “hell of a lesson”.
In an interview with New York’s The Architect’s Newspaper, the British architect - who is rapidly making a name for himself in America – said the recent downscaling of his firm had proved very difficult but that stability was now returning.
The interview follows BD’s exclusive in July that Adjaye Associates had entered into a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA), a deal to stave off insolvency under which it would repay 43 pence in the pound to creditors.
“We really felt it,” he said. “It was a huge systemic drain and a very complicated situation. I had to respond in a way that I wasn’t used or trained to do. I had to refinance and learn about downscaling, a horrible thing.
“It’s much more difficult here than in America—there are incredible employee rights. It took about six months to reduce the workforce by ten because we can’t fire people here. You have to go through consultation periods, etc. Now we’re at about 35.”
Adjaye said his firm is now winning work on a larger scale including a cultural centre in Lisbon, a college campus in Ghana, and a redevelopment scheme in Doha, Qatar.
He also claimed that schools of architecture are failing to prepare architects for the realities of business, describing them as “woefully unconnected to the idea of the profession being entrepreneurial”.
He concluded: “I feel more nimble and responsive about sustaining our studio. We’ve been asked to do commercial feasibility studies in India, as they seem to be recovering faster than other places. But I wonder, “Oh, God, here we go again; should we bother?” It took a year to get back to a sustainable practice. It’s been a hell of a lesson.”
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