Despite market uncertainty following the vote for Brexit, tp bennett increased its head count of permanently employed architects by nearly a third in 2016 – and the practice has a number of major projects on the go.
The architecture and interiors practice, with offices in London and Manchester, has shown strong growth since last year – and has shot up eight places in this year’s AJ100 rankings.
For now, says principal director Chris Bennie, the outlook of the practice is ‘one of consolidation and building on strengths we have. We will be looking at expansion where it allows. We are also always keen to look at other sectors as a natural growth from where we sit at the moment – such as residential and build to rent.’
The practice is one of the AJ100’s more diverse. More than a quarter (33) of its 122 qualified architects are from a black, Asian, or minority ethnic group.
The firm completed a number of major projects in 2016, including the fit-out of 5 Broadgate in central London to provide 65,000m2 of office space for financial services company UBS.
Principal director and interior architect Mark Davies described this as ‘London’s biggest groundscraper’, and a ‘significant achievement’ for the practice last year. Other key schemes the practice completed in 2016 include the refurbishment of Garden Halls in Bloomsbury, central London with Maccreanor Lavington to provide 1,200 student rooms for the University of London. It also finished Southbank Central in central London – a remodelling of a 1960s building to create 21,400m2 of offices.
Although tp bennett set up an office in Manchester three years ago, the practice only acquired permanent premises in the city in 2016. For Davies, the achievement shows that the firm has ‘proven to be resilient’, and has built on its successful brand in London by expanding in the north. It has grown its Manchester office from a team of four to 30 over the three years.
‘This permanent office represents an important commitment to the city and the wider region, and is a result of successfully taking the tp bennett brand and ethos to Manchester,’ he says.
The practice has a number of significant live projects, which include the £60 million regeneration of Rochdale town centre; bringing back to life a derelict cinema in Ealing, west London; and a 50,000m2 regeneration scheme in Hounslow, which will provide a new quarter for the borough providing shops, 400 new flats and a public square. Still, both Davies and Bennie admit that last June’s vote for Brexit has created an uncertain future.
‘There is a degree of market uncertainty, following last year’s Brexit vote,’ says Bennie. ‘There is a risk of the unknown.’
Davies echoes Bennie’s comments, adding that the EU referendum vote, general election, and even the French election, have all caused market uncertainty for the firm, and the practice is currently not looking to set up new offices elsewhere in the UK.
However, Bennie is keen to stress that the Brexit vote is not all doom and gloom, arguing that ‘most clouds do have a silver lining’.
What is more, he says, opportunities have been presented by the result, for example with overseas investors attracted by the weaker pound buying into UK developments. And he adds that tp bennett is also supporting occupier clients who are considering, or have acquired, new premises in Europe as a result of the vote for Brexit.
It is easy to forget that, for all the market concerns caused by the referendum, tp bennett is in a strong position – having increased staff numbers last year, and with a number of key projects on the go.
On balance, the outlook for 2017-18 is anything but bleak.