Employment survey: regional outlook

Two practice directors give us their own view of the state of architectural employment across Britain

Keith Priest

Fletcher Priest, London

London is a staggering city with good opportunities and a lot of very good people.

Our London office is the main driver for the practice, though we also have offices in Germany and Latvia.

It accounts for 60% of our work in Britain, though we’re also doing projects in places like Manchester and Oxford.

Over the last few months it’s certainly started looking a lot more optimistic.

We will meet our targets for this financial year, which ends in May, and are genuinely optimistic about the year ahead.

It won’t be spectacular and it’s very hard work. Fortunately we have an amazing team who work incredibly hard.

All the trends we look at, like the forward value of orders, the rate of enquiries and the work we are doing, point towards the next year being better than the current one — and that’s been OK.

Turnover could increase by 15% and I expect our staff to increase by about 6%. We’ve recruited two in the last two months and more will follow.

We’ve won several quite substantial projects in the last three months, including two large mixed-use schemes for private developers in London. But for us growth is just as much about repeat business and recommendations from existing clients.

David Page

Page Park Architects, Glasgow

The regions have had a tougher time than London. There’s just more money in the capital, private and public. And you shouldn’t underestimate the impact of the Olympics.

The years 2010 and 2011 were dark days. We lost a lot of good architects and firms, and very good builders. At Page & Park we lost 10 people 18 months ago because we had a bundle of projects that ran out. It’s been hard.

But it has picked up in the last nine months and we’ve added five people in the last six months. We are in a much better position now.

A number of our university and school projects have come back on stream and we won others for clients like Scottish Opera and Scottish Power.

I think we’re back to the 1980s and 1990s, when projects were more stop-start as people paused to gather funding — unlike in the full flow of a growth cycle, when people just plough on.

Banks are much tougher about lending and people are being more cautious. Clients are preparing plans but it remains to be seen whether they get their funding.

I think the 1990s was a rich architectural period for Britain as a whole because it allowed a bit more consideration, rather than just building like there’s no tomorrow.

It’s been painful for all of us but now we work to a different principle which is creative, careful and cautious.


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