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Wednesday23 July 2014

Foster's to make 300 to 400 redundancies

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Foster & Partners shuts Berlin and Istanbul offices the day after it highlights profitability to staff

Foster & Partners has announced plans to make around a quarter of its workforce redundant and has closed two of its 17 offices around the globe.

Despite repeated denials by senior management including chief executive Mouzhan Majidi, who insisted just two weeks ago that the firm could avoid any cuts to its 1,300-strong workforce, the practice announced on Tuesday it was making redundancies — understood to number between 300 and 400 staff members. It has closed offices in Istanbul and Berlin — the home of one of its best known projects, the Reichstag.

Read Amanda Baillieu's opinion: After Foster's, no one is safe

The move was announced in a letter to staff, who will now undergo a 90-day consultation period, and pointed to “a significant decline in work within the practice”, according to staffers. It comes less than two years after private equity group 3i took a minority stake in the business, promising to provide funds for expansion.

Foster's to make 300 to 400 redundancies
Credit: Tim Sanders

News of the redundancies sparked anger among staff, who complained that just the previous day the practice had announced it had the fastest-growing profits of a private equity-backed firm, according to this year’s Sunday Times Deloitte Buyout Track 100.

Hailing this recognition on Monday, Majidi called the result testament to the strength of the Foster brand, adding: “It is a timely moment to have our financial performance and the investment of 3i recognised.”

One architect facing redundancy, who did not wish to be named, said he had seen others in tears following news of job losses.

“It was out of the blue,” he said. “There was no proper announcement, no meetings and — more sarcastically — we were told we were one of the largest ‘profitable’ companies… just yesterday.”

Foster & Partners is divided into six design groups, and another anonymous staff member said that around 40% of both group six —headed by Nigel Dancey — and group three — which is run by Majidi — had been laid off, as well as a large proportion of Gerard Evenden’s group five, which handles a number of schemes in the United Arab Emirates.

The closure of the Berlin office — which worked mainly on eastern European and Russian projects and is reported to employ

76 staff — is a particular blow to the firm.

Foster’s is a huge name in Germany thanks to projects such as Dresden central rail station and Frankfurt’s Commerzbank tower. News of the office closure there was described as “very sad” by president of the Berlin chamber of architects Klaus Meier Hartmann.

“Foster has done some very important projects,” he said. “It’s good to have important architects working here — good for our other architects and for the architectural culture.”


Norman Foster

Speaking to BD at the World Architecture Festival in Barcelona last October, Norman Foster insisted that the recession would not force him to cut jobs, and advised fellow members of the British profession to “stay lean and keen” to get through the credit crunch.

“I don’t foresee [job cuts at Foster & Partners]. Not at all,” Foster said. “Our company was born out of a period of extreme hardship so it’s challenging, but it is what it is.”

Foster & Partners had been climbing the list of the world's biggest practises

Top firms ranked by number of registered architects in
BD's World Architecture 100

Rank 2009 Rank 2008 Practice

Architects 2008

Architects 2007
1 1 Gensler 1,360 1,216
2 4 Aedas 1,250 1,020
3 5 Foster & Partners 1,067 913
4 2 HOK 1,022 1,205
5 3 Nikken Sekkei 985 1,174

Memos from Foster & Partners: What a difference a day makes

DATE: 9th FEB
NEWSLETTER
SUBJECT: FASTEST GROWING PROFITS

Foster & Partners has been ranked number one in the 2009 Sunday Times Deloitte Buyout Track 100, with the fastest growing profits of a private equity backed firm. Mouzhan Majidi, chief executive, said: “This is a testament to the strength of our brand and the successful development of our projects abroad.

"The past two years have also seen us working in a number of new markets as well as winning a record number of competitions and awards. It is a
timely moment to have our financial performance and the investment of 3i recognised in this way.”

DATE: 10th FEB
TO: STAFF
FROM: MOUZHAN MAJIDI
SUBJECT: REDUNDANCIES

A number of our international clients have fallen victim to the current economic climate and as a result some of their projects have been delayed or cancelled.
This has inevitably had a direct effect on our business and as a result the very painful decision has been taken to inform a number of individuals that their job is at risk in line with many other businesses.

We owe a huge debt to everyone whose vigorous efforts have resulted in excellence in design across the world… This decision to inform those at risk has therefore been the hardest for me personally in my career especially given the wealth of creative talent we continue to attract. Mindful of the past cyclical swings in the economy, we look forward to a brighter future.

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Readers' comments (23)

  • Oh Norman: your name was written on this one a while ago!!! Most of us would call your attitude of late 'hubris': and this is the downfall you so richly deserve. With the passage of time the originality and appeal of your output has waned until it is barely distinguishable from a "hi-tec" Richard Seifert solution. But you can safely hide in Switzerland, count your money and cogitate your loss of intellectual altitude?

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  • Well, at least they kept all the Associates, Associate Partners, Partners and Senior Partner, it will be good for somebody to see these ones working for a change. This is pretty much the beginning of the decline of work at Fosters as they still have a lot of projects they won't be able to deliver on time. Mark my words: In two years time they will be selling the riverside office. But respect is due for everybody still working at Fosters You people are treated as slaves but are real heroes for Me.! Good luck for everybody in Turkey and Germany that are facing unemployment.

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  • It is a sad day indeed for many, who found themselves unemployed over night in front of the world's perhaps most prolific offices. Orhan Ayyüce, Feb 11, 09 | 8:42 am source: http://archinect.com/news/article.php?id=85538_0_24_0_C

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  • "small is beautiful"!?

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  • Yeh, I'm not surprised at all. I was a struggling architect in the mid-nineties and via a contact, I went all the way down to Foster's offices from Bedford where I lived at the time to pick up some contract work. The associate who interviewed me, who I remember being a very honest guy (boyfriend of someone I worked with in Bedford if my memory serves me well) virtually offered this work subject to clearance with a director. The following day, I received a phone call from the associate who genuinely apologised to me and assured me that he had tried his best to secure the work for me but the director had decided to hand it out for their full-time staff to do at weekends, presumably gratis. 'Suck then dry, then leave them high and dry', that must be the company's motto! I am a great admirer of Foster And Partner's work, I have 'The Catalogue' on my bookshelf but they should remember that without their dedicated staff, they are nobody. As for me, I'm sixty, virtually penniless, have been thrown out of many a practicefor speaking my mind and my wife has just left me as a result of the financial pressures thrust on us over the last 12 years. A career in architecture has done me no favours whatsoever so I'm winding up the few (about 3) small jobs I have left, resigning from the RIBA and I'm going to spend the rest of my life writing stuff and playing music. This recession exists only in the minds of those whose aim is gain and not in the eyes of those who selflessly give to others and that is what Jesus was talking about. Patrick Nicholson RIBA

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  • Recipe for disaster: 1) Be less selective, hire more people. 2) Increase market value. 3) When market goes downhill, fire them; remember, you actually didn't need most of them from the start! 4) Keep incompetent people who think that their architectural genius is the best thing to this planet since sliced bread. They're great for filling empty spaces, even if they practically scratch their... backs all day. 5) Profit. Repeat.

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  • sustainable design doesn't mean you couldn't fire your resources - burned staff doesn't leave co2 in the atmosphere. shed tears wouldn't let the sea level rise.

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  • Well, Foster + Partners let go of staff. So what? Why is everyone pointing the finger? It is so easy pointing the finger, so hard doing it yourself. No one seems to be seriously touched when all the nameless giants, such as rmjm, som, atkins, aedas, nikken sekkei (I don’t even know to pronounce their names) let go of people. Why is that? Probably because foster + partners have contributed so much more to architecture, society, environment, etc. Norman Foster himself signed his name across the last century and this against all odds. Many pointing the finger today weren’t able or willing to go his way. After all, his talent and will led today’s practice to humongous success, architecturally as commercially. So what is fosters + partners supposed to be? A welfare institution? It has and will feed many mouths. Some might have joined fosters to be part of its fame and glory, probably no one of the entire staff as talented and willing as Norman Foster himself, but for sure free willingly signing the contract – and if only to participate in something big. So if this enormous successful company is affected by the financial downturn, what is it supposed to do? Anyone who feels disappointed upset and likes to point the finger should reflect back 40 years. Could you repeat this way against all odds and the wind blowing into your face? If you can answer this question with ‘yes’, these times are the perfect opportunity to proof so. And if you made millions then, no one should point the finger then, if you decided to pay your taxes, lets say in Switzerland… besides its contributions to modern society, foster + partners have and will feed many mouths.

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  • CV (are you Norman's mum?) - Thank you for your spirited defence of Lord Foster's one man struggle to populate the planet with the architectural equivalent of grey goo (apparently in spite of his workforce consisting of faceless, talentless drones.) Can I say how much I particularly enjoyed the image of Norman's heroic endurance of 40 years of wind in the face?

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  • mjh, just tiered of too much negative attitude and the tendencies of being annoyed by others success. if you want to spread colors in architecture, just go ahead - it s a contribution to a wide variety as grey is. good luck!

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