Allies and Morrison moves into the top five after adding 17 architects last year, taking its tally up to 182 – its highest ever.
Yet there is a strong sense of ‘playing it safe’ at the practice, which this year celebrates its 35th anniversary. After a boost in recruitment last autumn it is no longer actively looking for new talent and doesn’t expect to increase the headcount further during 2019. Instead, it is planning to hold back, seeing what comes around the corner.
‘We would like to keep the ship steady,’ says partner Alex Wraight, adding that ‘general uncertainty and indecision is something that we’re feeling across the board’, with a climate of ‘wait-and-see’ among large client bases.
Brexit has been an issue not just for the market but for practice staff – 47 per cent of Allies and Morrison’s employees are non-UK passport holders. ‘We’ve had legal advice and we’ve tried to support them positively,’ says partner Joanna Bacon.
Nonetheless, 2018 was ‘a year of numerous successes’, she says, with architectural fee income holding steady at just under £42 million. Turnover ranges across many sectors, remaining strong in masterplanning, residential and education sectors. ‘We’re well diversified and strong,’ says Wraight.
Key recent UK completions include a boarding house for independent school Marlborough College, John Lewis’s White City store and the Van Hasselt Centre at Cranleigh School, which wraps new build around two re-used squash courts. ‘There’s something lovely about being contextual but also very green in terms of retaining as much of the original as possible,’ says Bacon.
Further high-profile completions are set to follow this year, including 100 Bishopsgate, the 40-storey commercial tower in the City of London, and Two Fifty One, the 41-storey residential and commercial development at London’s Elephant and Castle. As well as higher education projects at the universities of Cambridge, Oxford and Imperial College London, the practice will complete three major faith projects: Westbourne Park Baptist Church, South Hampstead Synagogue, and the Juma Mosque at Msheireb Downtown Doha in Qatar.
Allies and Morrison has detected a growing market for re-use and retrofit within the UK.
‘It’s interesting to us how some of our schemes from the early noughties have gone through their first phases of occupation and are being reinvented,’ says Wraight, referring to White City Place where The Mediaworks (formerly the Media Centre) and Garden House for the BBC were completed by the practice 15 years ago.
The practice has also experienced an increased interest in sustainability and Passivhaus in the last couple of years. It is aiming to exceed sustainability targets on both a new student residential quad for Wadham College, Oxford and graduate accommodation for King’s College, Cambridge.
In addition to its core UK market, Allies and Morrison is pursuing work abroad with ongoing projects in the Middle East, Canada, Ireland, South Korea and Singapore. Establishing a new ‘satellite’ office in Dublin, its first outside the UK, is one of the priorities for the next year. Further afield, there’s also the prospect of opening an office in North America.