Adding six architects to its UK team over the year has strengthened Grimshaw’s position as an AJ100 big-hitter, propelling the London practice back into the top 10. This also contributed to its need to rent overspill office space after outgrowing its Clerkenwell headquarters.
The firm’s growth follows large project wins including masterplanning work for Heathrow’s third runway and the redevelopment of New York’s John F Kennedy airport. Mark Middleton, outgoing managing partner for Grimshaw’s London office, predicts further UK expansion due to its High Speed 2 work on Birmingham Curzon Street and London Euston stations, and its first full sports stadium – for Bath Rugby. ‘We’re very optimistic for the future,’ he says.
Middleton says the practice – 40 per cent of whose UK architects are women – will publish its gender pay gap voluntarily and has changed the way it works to encourage the appointment and retention of female staff. The measures include requiring recruitment agencies to present an equal number of male and female candidates for jobs; improved maternity pay conditions; and a ‘return to work’ bonus to help with childcare costs.
A strong international performance during 2017 saw architectural fee income for projects delivered out of overseas offices soar from £29.5 million last time to £47.6 million. The number of overseas architects grew from 92 to 161 over the same period, driven by ‘massive expansion’ in Australia, where the practice’s Melbourne and Sydney studios have a focus on higher education and commercial high-rise developments.
Grimshaw’s New York studio is also expected to expand after being commissioned to design a £1 billion terminal building for Newark Liberty International Airport, while a new Los Angeles office opens this year on the back of a commission to design an airport metro connector at LAX.
Middleton says Grimshaw, which oversaw the completion of its £1 billion redevelopment of London Bridge station in 2017, is ‘on speed dial’ for major transport projects. ‘We’re a black belt in metro, aviation and rail design and I think we’re recognised as such,’ he says.
However, the practice is also expanding into new sectors. The completion of a London tech hub for Yoox Net-a-Porter last year marked its first significant interiors project and kickstarted the establishment of a dedicated interiors team.
Middleton says that, while the UK office is not in the ‘cabal’ ruling the London commercial property scene, it is taking opportunities regionally. As well as creating the masterplan for Belfast City Quays, it completed a nine-storey office building on the site in 2017.
He believes Grimshaw faces the challenge of diversifying its offer – both in terms of type and scale of work – while maintaining quality.
‘We have got to that point where we’re trusted,’ he says. ‘But we don’t want to be “trusted but steady”. We want to be “trusted but interesting” … and do things we are all proud of.’