Number of architects employed by world’s top practices drops after last year’s high

The Hub on Causeway by Gensler

Source: Gensler

The Hub on Causeway by Gensler. The mixed-use development is on the site of the original Boston Garden arena.

Confidence in global work prospects for architects has slumped to a five-year low according to Building Design’s WA100 annual survey of world’s biggest practices.

The report, which ranks firms by the numbers of architects employed, reveals that just 55% of practices think the global construction economy will grow over the next 12 months compared to last year’s 72%.

WA100 2020 logo 3by2

Architects were most positive about work prospects in North America and the Pacific Rim including China, with 78% saying they expect growth in both markets during the next year. Optimism has softened compared to last year, when 92% of architects said they expected growth in North America and 83% in China.

The drop in confidence has been matched by a 1.3% fall in the numbers of architects employed by the world’s top practices to 37,277. Last year the total number of architects employed by the 100 leading firms leapt by 6.45% to 37,787, the highest number ever recorded by the WA100.

The top 10 firms this year increased the number of architects they employ by 0.05%, a drop on last year’s 7.3% This takes the numbers of architects employed by the top 10 firms to 13,136.

US giant Gensler retained the top spot for the fifth year running with 2,817 architects, up 7% on last year. Nikken Sekkei, Aecom and HDR retained second, third and fourth positions respectively for the third year running.

Foster & Partners was knocked off the UK’s top spot by BDP which came in at 24. Fosters tumbled 13 places down the table to 27th place due to a change the way the practice calculates its architect numbers.

BDP increased its numbers by 88 after joining forces with Toronto-based Quadrangle in February.

The UK’s third largest practice, Allford Hall Monaghan Morris, climbed 14 places to 39th spot with a 25% increase in numbers, taking it to just shy of 300 architects.

CCDI Hangzhou Olympic Sports Center

The Hangzhou Olympic Sports Centre was designed by Chinese architect CCDI in partnership with NBBJ

Chinese firms increased their presence in this year’s WA100. Shanghai-based Arcplus entered the rankings for the first time this year, coming in at position 28 with 432 architects. Another Shanghai-based firm, CCDI, entered in 65th place with 183 architects.

Doug Wignall, president of HDR, said it was only a matter of time before Chinese designers gained enough experience to go it alone after working with international firms. He said: “Eventually they were going to be able to take on projects a tier or two below the projects they were working on at the large global practices, but these are large projects which can feed growth.”

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