Purcell slips four places after the number of UK architects at the architectural and heritage consultancy practice fell from 115 to 104 during 2018. Total architectural fees, however, were up slightly from £16.5 million to £17.9 million.
‘2018 was a good year for Purcell,’ says managing partner and chief executive Mark Goldspink. ‘We more or less retained our turnover and profit levels. In terms of sectors, we found we generated more work in the public and culture sectors.’ That work includes projects at Manchester Town Hall, Battersea Power Station, the Palace of Westminster and the National Portrait Gallery, the latter with Jamie Fobert Architects. These projects helped compensate for a dropping off in high-value residential.
Public sector projects now represent 25-30 per cent of work. The practice is also strong in higher education, with its expertise in working with both historic and 20th-century buildings helping it get on to the University of Oxford framework. Another key trend has been an increasing diversification into new build – currently this makes up a record 25 per cent of the practice’s turnover. Projects include a 37,000m2 new build at the £200 million Defence and National Rehabilitation Centre at Lutterworth, Leicestershire. Purcell is also targeting growth in its overseas work, particularly in Australia and Hong Kong, where it last year completed the Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage and Arts, a revitalisation of the former Central Police Station for the Hong Kong Jockey Club, in collaboration with Herzog & de Meuron. International projects currently account for 10 per cent of Purcell’s turnover, and this figure is expected to double in the next two years.
This year, however, the practice has responded to the current lack of market confidence by making around 10 per cent of its staff redundant. ‘We’re being cautious and prudent,’ says Goldspink. ‘We still have a buoyant order book but we are seeing a slowdown of future orders.’
The practice recently became a limited company in preparation for becoming employee-owned next year.