Embracing agency fusion

TRADITIONAL rivalries in the field of architecture have been put aside in recent years in favour of productive alliances and associations between firms, creating a wealth of new concepts, ideas and designs.

Several high-profile Perth projects have resulted from the fusion of different ideas and styles, including the Panorama luxury apartments from Spowers and Jones Coulter Young, and the new theatre and studio at the Mt Lawley Campus of Edith Cowan University, from Spowers and Mitchell, Guirgola and Thorp.

According to Spowers client services manager John Crabtree, local, interstate and international firms have embraced the trend, recognising strategic alliances with other firms will open many doors.

“Traditionally architects have been very competitive, and they still are at every opportunity … but architectural practices are now developing alliances and associations to target and secure work, both locally and internationally, that they may not have previously considered achievable,” Mr Crabtree said.

“Specific projects often require the additional expertise and resourcing capacity that an association with another firm promotes.

“Not only does this approach give firms access to a broader variety of projects and expertise, it enables firms to manage their personnel more appropriately over extended periods while continuing to focus on their clients’ needs.”

He said that, in the past, tough competition had meant there was a reluctance to share concepts between competitors.

But economic and global changes in the past decade has led to associations, alliances and joint ventures growing in popularity.

Royal Australian Institute of Architects WA Chapter president Warren Kerr said national and international associations and alliances had been very beneficial for local firms.

“Interstate or international firms working on a project recognise the advantages of local knowledge when it comes to considering town planning schemes and building regulations,” he said.

“The experience of the people who have worked on previous projects gives the client confidence and if there are problems the client knows they have local people who can meet them on site.”

Mr Kerr said that, as alliances and associations became stronger, more national firms had been created, such as Hames Sharley and Spowers.

But while the benefits of such partnerships were clear, Jones Coulter Young director Richard Young said firms had to be wary of potential problems.

“There is a clear reason to work on a project together. We found that we were continually competing against each other for work and we found it is better to get half a project than none,” Mr Young said.

“However you have to be careful of the downsides, which can be too many cooks spoiling the broth.”

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