21/01/2003 - 21:00

Top five architects dominate market

21/01/2003 - 21:00

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THERE was limited but steady growth for Perth’s architectural firms last year as the five largest names continued to dominate the top end of the market.

Top five architects dominate market

THERE was limited but steady growth for Perth’s architectural firms last year as the five largest names continued to dominate the top end of the market.

Sporting a collective talent pool of 133 architects, the top five firms rode out a relatively lean year thanks to a number of big-budget projects.

Topping the 2003 WA Business News Book of Lists list of architects (1-20) was Spowers Architects, which expanded staff numbers from 35 architects to 42 last year, in the process lifting the firm from third place in the 2002 list to number one currently.

Spowers Architects manager of client services Andrew Low said it was the creation of a new specialised health unit, rather than increased market growth, that underpinned the firm’s staff increase.

Those who joined the company last year had been recruited for their core specialised health experience. Among these were graduates employed to help weather the workload of larger projects, he said.

“There was limited growth in 2002 with a few major projects such as the convention centre, health work and education work that kept things going for the top firms,” Mr Low said.

Cox Howlett and Bailey Woodland retained second place on the list, increasing support staff by 10 while the staff pool of 35 architects remained stable.

Director Greg Howlett said 2002 had been a good year for the firm, with high-profile developments such as the Perth Convention Centre, the WA Maritime Museum and the Harbour Town Retail development on Wellington Street representing more than $230 million of design and construction value for the firm.

He said while the considerable work-load of project documentation during the past year had required an increase in staff, the firm was now running at an optimum size and there were no plans to expand.

“We plan to stay around our present size, where we are small enough to take on most projects but not so big that we are affected by minor downturns in the local market,” Mr Howlett said.

The firm, which has a national presence, plans to continue its expansion into the overseas market. Cox Howlett and Bailey Woodland last year successfully attracted contracts in New Zealand and United Arab Emirates.

“We are looking to the overseas market to flatten the peaks and troughs of the local construction industry market,” Mr Howlett said.

Newcomer to WA Business News list of architects, Jones Coulter Young, cruised into third place with a modest staff of 20 architects.

Director Richard Young said competition for the major projects of 2002 was reasonably fierce with around six of the top firms coming up against each other.

Jones Coulter Young won several major projects during 2002, including the $16 million Fisheries Department Research and Education Centre to be constructed in Hillarys, and the $40 million Geraldton Hospital and $25 million Mount Lawley High School contracts.

Mr Young said the firm’s strength was seen in its designs, which have been recognised with a number of architectural awards.

“We are also the only ones that operate solely out of WA,” he said.

Mr Young said that, while the past 18 months had been steady in the industry, looming world events had cast a shade of uncertainty over the year ahead.

“Whenever the economy turns our industry is usually one of the first to be hit,” he said.

Fresh from a year full of interesting and exciting projects, Oldfield Knott Architects Pty Ltd has placed fifth in the 2003 list.

Significant projects for the company include the $5.5 million Pheonix Shopping Centre in Spearwood and the $12 million Computer Science Corporation building.

The firm has also teamed up with Cox Howlett and Bailey Woodland to work on the $40 million Harbour Town retail development.

Director Anna Meszaros said that, with a number of projects pending, Oldfield Knott would possibly be seeking five to 10 people in 2003 to add to the 18 architects currently employed.

“We have a wide base of private sector, corporate clientele, who can wear downturns in the industry and we have expanded through those clients over the years,” Ms Meszaros said. “We are very positive about the coming year.”

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