Norman Foster & Partners earnings now 40% of top 10’s income

Architects’ Journal has named Foster + Partners – the architect firm behind some of the UK’s most iconic buildings, including The Gherkin – as the UK’s number one architectural practice for the third year in a row in its annual AJ100 list.

The global powerhouse, whose past work has included the Millennium Bridge, Wembley Stadium, ‘THE GHERKIN’ and City Hall, received an annual UK income of £130 million, which accounts for a staggering 41% of the total income of the top 10 companies on the list.

The AJ’s prestigious annual league table ranks the top 100 UK architectural firms based on their number of employees. Norman Foster’s company now boasts 290 UK-registered architects, almost doubling its lead in the league table and widening the gap between their nearest rival BDP who employ 203 registered architects.

Despite writing down the value of its company by £129.4 million and controversially parting company with chief executive Mouzhan Majidi earlier in the year, Foster + Partners is now almost a third bigger than any of its competitors in terms of number of architects employed.

In addition, Norman Foster came out on top of a poll which asked AJ100 architects: ‘which architect, living or dead, most inspires the work of your practice?”

Rory Olcayto, Acting Editor, AJ, said:

“Norman Foster is the Usain Bolt of the architecture world: Foster + Partners is so far ahead of the pack in this year’s AJ100, it seems almost unfair.

“When you set the architect’s lead over his rivals alongside other recent achievements, such as Fosters’ commission to design Apple’s headquarters, its status as the second biggest user of 3D printing after Nike, its role in designing a moon base for the European Space Agency, and the fact that this year Norman Foster is the only architect to chart in the Sunday Times Rich List, you’ve got the ingredients of a world-class business.

“The AJ100 once again highlights architecture’s greatest success stories and celebrates a sector that contributes a huge amount – both financially and culturally – to the UK and beyond.”

Zaha Hadid, another leading light of UK architecture, comes in at number 16 with 70 registered architects in the UK at her firm Zaha Hadid Architects, while a surprise entry in at number 3 was the rapidly expanding firm Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM), which has risen up the league table from 18th place in 2012.AHMM have won several major awards and won high-profile work such as Google’s new headquarters in King’s Cross and the Metropolitan Police’s new headquarters.

AJ100 survey results – at a glance

  • The aggregate fee income to UK architect offices for projects being undertaken in the UK and overseas totalled £930m, £20m higher than the total reported by the AJ100 members last year.
  • More than three quarters of this was due to UK-based projects, but overseas projects accounted for £220m.
  • Contrary to the last few years, more hopes are now pinned on the domestic than overseas markets. Among the 72 practices with overseas income and answering the question on how they expect their overseas margins to develop, 60% expect them to remain unchanged, while six firms expect them to be slightly lower. 20 firms expected their UK margins to develop more favourably than their overseas margins, with only four taking the opposite view.
  • Overall staff numbers at UK architecture firms are also growing: this year’s AJ100 practices 38,600 people altogether, 3,000 up on last year.
  • The number of female architects working in the UK’s top 100 practices has also made surprise leap with almost 100 more UK registered women architects now on the payroll than last year.
  • While still low, the proportion of women professionals employed by AJ100 firms has none the less increased from 25 per cent to 28 per cent in 2014 – a 3 per cent hike.
  • If the plans of all the practices are realised, there will be an increase of 825 UK based architects among the AJ100 practices by the end of the year, a remarkable 16% increase on their current workforce.
  • Meanwhile, 47 expect to increase their employment of architects overseas during 2014, with only three expecting to employ fewer.
  • Among the top 25, all of which employ at over 60 ARB-registered architects in the UK, none expects their margins to fall: 70% anticipate improvements, while 30% expect no change.