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May 25, 2014 2:00 pm
Foster & Partners, the UK’s biggest and most profitable architecture firm, has powered ahead of its competitors, according to an annual ranking of British architects by fees.
The practice, which employs 290 UK-registered architects, is responsible for some of Britain’s most recognisable and innovative buildings, including the London landmarks of the “Gherkin” City skyscraper, Wembley Stadium and the Millennium Bridge.
With an annual UK income of £130m, it accounted for 41 per cent of the fee income of the top 10 practices, the Architects’ Journal found in its survey of the 100 largest UK firms.
Rory Olcayto, acting editor, said the practice was “so far ahead . . . it seems almost unfair”.
The past few years have been an exceptional period for Foster & Partners. It is designing the $5bn Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California, and a building for the Bloomberg business media group in London.
Last year, it completed the world’s first commercial spaceport – the sleek Virgin Galactic Gateway in the New Mexico desert – and it is working with the European Space Agency on a project to research the possibilities of 3D printing a permanent moon base. The firm is reputedly the second-biggest user of 3D printing technology after Nike.
Last month, it was announced that its designs for the Vieux Port in Marseille had been awarded the European Prize for Urban Public Space.
March 2014: After many false dawns the future of London’s Battersea Power Station is taking shape with plans for 3,400 new homes, shops and offices, reports Hugo Greenhalgh.
Among the practice’s current and forthcoming UK projects are a big redevelopment at London’s Battersea Power Station (with Frank Gehry), and plans for a 73-storey apartment tower in Canary Wharf, east London, that would be Britain’s tallest residential building, which is in a consultation process.
However, the practice has suffered recent setbacks. Last week, it was announced that its plans for the New York Public Library were being dropped, following a public outcry about changes to a much-loved institution.
It has also emerged that the practice’s Harmon Hotel, part of the Las Vegas city centre development, is being demolished before opening – although this is said to be because of structural defects and not for any reason attributed to the architects.
The practice also lost its chief executive, Mouzhan Majidi, this year, and last month wrote down £130m, blaming a “tough economic environment”.
News that the practice has topped the list for the third year running nevertheless underlines Foster & Partners’ dominance of the UK architectural scene.
Lord Foster of Thames Bank, the 78-year-old founder whose offices are beside the river at Battersea, has – with projects such as the Gherkin – arguably changed the London skyline more than any other architect since Sir Christopher Wren.
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