As it celebrates its 30th anniversary year Hawkins\Brown shows no sign of resting on its laurels. If anything, there is a sense that the practice, led by Roger Hawkins and Russell Brown, is only just hitting top gear as it moves into the top 10 for the first time, zooming up to number 7 after adding 18 architects during 2017. Turnover rose 15 per cent from £23 million to £26.5 million.
The talk is of further expansion, with plans to open an office in Scotland during 2018 as part of a strategy for sustained, steady growth, not only in London but across the regions and overseas. Its Northern office in Manchester has grown to 28 within just three years. And, with the need soon to absorb staff from its Crossrail project office back into its main London studio, the practice has the happy problem of how to accommodate increased numbers. It already has an overspill office.
Hawkins\Brown’s upward trajectory has been driven by its determinedly diverse portfolio as well as benefiting from its recent change of ownership to a limited liability partnership. According to Hawkins, none of its key sectors of education, workplace, residential, transport/infrastructure and civic/cultural/community should individually represent more than a quarter of the practice’s turnover, although its education workload has flourished beyond this, with higher education and schools work currently accounting for 25 per cent and 10 per cent respectively of total turnover. Major projects include its recently completed facility at Here East for University College London on the Queen Elizabeth Park in East London, part of a larger regeneration of the former 2012 Olympics broadcasting centre.
Hawkins\Brown reports growth across the board in 2017, its smallest sector being civic/cultural/community. The practice hopes to boost its work in both the latter and in workplace, and particularly enjoys projects with cross-fertilisation between sectors, such as its Tiger Way school and residential development overlooking Hackney Downs in East London, which started on site in 2017, and the recently completed Urban Sciences Building at Newcastle University, which includes BCO-standard office accommodation.
While Hawkins says the practice is naturally a glass-half-full-type outfit, there are concerns about Brexit, not only about its effect on market confidence, but also about how it will affect the sourcing of the right quality of components for projects, and, in particular, about what it means for recruitment and for its many European staff.
‘We employ people from throughout Europe and really enjoy that diversity. What’s tragic is that people have been leaving and going to other European countries,’ says Hawkins.
The practice is exploring how best to expand its overseas work and is considering collaboration with other practices. International work has never previously represented more than 5 per cent of its business but the aim is to increase this to 25 per cent in three years. In 2017, it set up a small office in Los Angeles and is hoping that its specialist skills in infrastructure, HE and refurbishment of post-war buildings, such as Park Hill in Sheffield, will be transferable to the American market.