‘There’s nothing we can’t do. If it’s complex, it’s of interest to us, because we can add value,’ says Scott Brownrigg’s upbeat CEO Darren Comber, predicting that 2019 could be the veteran practice’s strongest year ever. This is not ‘accidental’, he explains, but rather the fruit of more than a decade of strategic business planning to build the skill sets and international footprint for a global practice.
Scott Brownrigg retains its top 10 slot for the second year after increasing its UK architects tally from 119 to 131 during 2018. The practice made several moves to further its global agenda: acquiring rail and transit specialist Acanthus; creating a global masterplanning team; expanding offices in New York and Singapore; and opening one in Amsterdam. Off the back of its role as lead designer on the world’s largest airport terminal – the £10.9 billion Istanbul Airport (concept design by Grimshaw) which completed last year, the practice is optimistic about further work in the aviation sector.
Part of Scott Brownrigg’s USP comes from its Amsterdam-based Advanced Technologies team, an independent business unit which focuses on data and technology. With four data centres completed in the UK and Singapore and more than a dozen in the pipeline globally, the practice is also spearheading a mixed-use data shed building type to incorporate activities such as multistorey distribution centres for online deliveries and co-working. A data shed is at concept stage in Bangkok, with further opportunities in America and Indonesia. Recent work for Expedia led to an interior design commission for seven Expedia offices globally.
Scott Brownrigg values and actively markets its technical expertise, Scott Brownrigg values and actively markets its technical expertise, operating a 45-strong Design Delivery Unit, winner of this year’s AJ100 Executive Architect of the Year award.
In addition to ongoing work in the practice’s core sectors of aviation, education, commercial and residential, the current portfolio includes a technology business park in the Moscow periphery (six buildings will complete in autumn 2019); a cultural tourism masterplan for Rotorua, New Zealand (won through competition); and two towers in New York, where the practice is also promoting its Park Avenue wind turbine proposal. ‘In New York we are batting at a very high level,’ says Comber, commenting on the practice’s expanded Manhattan office and recent affiliation with Crown Architecture. Back home, almost a quarter of the workload is government-related, primarily for the Ministry of Defence.
A board of four operates the practice, with 78 active shareholders, important for retaining talent, as is the opportunity for staff to gain international experience by working globally, particularly in the context of Brexit. With just over 11 per cent of current income from overseas work – and a target of 40 per cent by 2023, it’s early days to evaluate the success of Scott Brownrigg’s ambitious international strategy.
As for the practice’s dream job, Comber replies with a smile: ‘We’d love to do the last tower on the World Trade Center site.’ Watch this space.