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Full AJ100 data



Belfast City Quays 2donal mccann

Kirsten Lees, the managing partner of Grimshaw Architects’ London studio, seems almost surprised at the strength of the practice’s performance in 2018. ‘Given the political context and uncertainty, we had a fantastic year,’ she says.

Indeed, having added 20 architects to its UK staff, the practice has climbed a significant two places in the top 10 of this year’s AJ100. Architectural fee income from its UK office rose from £16.4 million to £21.6 million. And the year’s feel-good factor was capped by the practice’s chair and founder Nicholas Grimshaw receiving the 2019 RIBA Royal Gold Medal. ‘He’s delighted,’ says Lees, although she confesses to thinking it ‘perhaps a little overdue’.

In terms of major completions over the last year, Lees singles out London Bridge Station – ‘it was hugely complex to deliver but we’ve had a fantastic response.’ She also highlights Istanbul airport, which recently opened and is set to be the largest in the world when all phases are complete. Although the practice was not involved in final construction, it designed and delivered it through to Stage 4 ‘in an amazingly tight timescale’.

These two projects underline the long-term strength of the practice in the transport and infrastructure sectors – other major projects include HS2 Euston and Birmingham and masterplanning the Heathrow third runway expansion. Although as Lees is keen to point out: ‘Large infrastructure projects like London Bridge are of a scale that goes beyond the sectors; they have a civic city-making scale.’

There will also be a plethora of completions over the coming year across other sectors. In higher education, Grimshaw will deliver the final building of Southampton University’s new campus where they’ve been working for over a decade, and in the cultural sector, the Contemporary Art Museum in Istanbul is due to open in September. Another significant completion will be the Curragh Racecourse in County Kildare, Ireland, which heralds a new focus on sport – the practice is also working on its first standalone stadium, at Bath Rugby Club. Lees also sees the firm looking to pursue opportunities in the UK’s commercial sector.

She sees this diversification as making business sense. ‘I think it’s really key for long-term resilience that we work across all sectors and all scales,’ she says. ‘Although it’s important not to spread yourself too thin.’

One pressing issue is space at the London studio, where staff numbers grew last year by around 30 per cent. While the immediate solution is two nearby overspill spaces, ‘in the long term, we are looking to consolidate our premises,’ says Lees.

With employee numbers having risen above 250, the practice was this year required to report its gender pay gap, which at 9.1 per cent was lower than average. Meanwhile, the percentages of female and BAME architects employed in the London office moved up slightly to 41.5 per cent and 15 per cent respectively. Lees is quick to point out that making the workplace an inclusive and diverse environment cannot be measured in percentages alone. ‘It’s not just about recruitment; it’s about every facet of how we work,’ she says.

Despite the present healthy workload, Lees is in no doubt of the tough environment for finding work and sees the coming year as one more of consolidation than growth.

Though the practice remains unreservedly pessimistic about Brexit, Lees does see Grimshaw as having a certain resilience through its global network of offices, although architectural fee income from its overseas offices fell from £47.6 million to £34.5 million during 2018. Last year saw it register an office in LA for the first time.

‘We’re relatively optimistic – but you can never be complacent,’ she says.


UK architects 2019 142 hide graph
49 2008
52 2009
54 2010
97 2015
126 2016
116 2017
122 2018
142 2019
Overseas architects 2019 156 show graph
22 2008
59 2009
62 2010
62 2015
135 2016
92 2017
161 2018
156 2019
Percentage of women architects in the UK 2019 42% show graph
Percentage of BAME architects in the UK 2019 15% show graph


Architecture fees for UK projects paid to UK offices 2019 £18.8m
Architecture fees for overseas projects paid to UK offices 2019 £2.8m
Architecture fees for all projects delivered out of UK offices 2019 £21.6m
Architectural fees for projects delivered out of overseas offices 2019 £34.5m
Total fees income 2019 £56.0m
Total income 2019 * £73.3m
Fees paid to UK offices
 UK income
 Overseas income
* Includes architectural fees plus fees earned by engineers, surveyors, planners, etc

Fees per architectural staff

UK office architecture fees per UK architecture staff 2019£102,190


2019 awards 11 show graph


2019 ranking 7 show graph
If you spot any inaccuracies in the data, please contact the AJ Team.