While The WA100, Building Design’s annual ranking of the world’s largest architecture firms, isn’t perfect (see our controversial article here), it does reveal a lot about the state of architecture today. And for 2013, the research shows that there are finally brighter days ahead for architects – just not at home.
BD’s research reveals that China remains the world’s largest construction market (a title it’s held since 2010); that the Asia-Pacific Market is expected to be the largest by 2020 (with projected value of $4.6 trillion dollars); and that China, India, and Brazil offer the best growth potential for architectural services. Not surprisingly, the survey’s top three ranking firms – Aecom, Gensler, and IBI Group – all have a significant presence in these markets.
However, are these mega-firms really the best models to aspire to? With the economic crisis making it everyday more evident that there are more opportunities abroad than at home, where is a firm to go? China? India? Brazil?
Almost certainly not.
Find out whether/where you should go abroad, after the break…
That was the question I posed yesterday, in response to our publication of The WA100, Building Design’s ranking of the world’s largest architecture firms. My conclusion was that ranking, by size, tells you very little about the success of the world’s largest firms. But ranking by income and efficiency? Well, that tells you quite a bit more.
By looking at the Top 5 Fee Income Earners and the 5 Most Efficient Firms of 2012 – and their strategies – we can understand far more what it takes to be successful in this tough market. Since The WA100 is much more than a list of rankings, but also a compendium of information, I went back to the source to investigate these firms more.
The big guns (Aecom, Gensler, etc.) have aggressively pursued a diverse range of projects on an international scale (particularly in China and the Middle East) – a stance that is far from surprising, considering how competitive they are.
More interesting, however, is that the most “efficient” firms (those firms that, while nowhere near the size nor clout of the Big 3, have earned higher fee incomes per employee), have either stayed in strong markets or diversified internationally, creating a niche for themselves in these markets (a strategy discussed at length in “The 7 Things You Need To Know Before Doing Business Abroad”).
Learn the business strategies of the top income earners and most efficient earners of 2012, after the break…
Yesterday, we published The WA100, Building Design’s ranking of the world’s largest architecture firms’ physical and financial growth for 2013. The ranking is – although not by any fault of its own – inherently misleading.
Why? Because we’re wired to read a ranking subjectively, looking to #1 as the best in some capacity, and then to compare other entries, with higher or lower rankings, as somehow better/worse than their neighbors.
But this list is objectively ordered by size (a.k.a the number of employees). Not by the amount of money earned. Not by the number of projects completed. Not by the prestige of those projects, or even the quality of the work.
So what does it mean to be in the Top 5 of this ranking? Qualitatively, not very much.
Which is not to say that the list isn’t worth a longer look…
Check out the Top 5 Most Admired Firms of 2012 (and other ways we should be evaluating the world’s largest firms), after the break…
Building Design has released their annual ranking, The WA100, of the world’s largest architecture firms. Coming in the #1 spot (up from #2 last year) is Aecom, who, with 1,370 employees worldwide, narrowly outranked Gensler (with 1,346 employees). Completing the top three was IBI Group (1,129 employees). Aecom, Gensler, and Japanese-based firm Nikken Sekkei (ranked #4) were the top 3 earners of 2012, each making over $400 million US Dollars in Fee Income.
Of the top 10 largest firms, 5 are based in North America, 3 in Asia, and 1 in the UK (Aedas, which ranked 5th, is dually based in both China and the UK). A similar trend is also evident in the list as a whole – as you can see from the graphic we compiled (after the break), US firms remain the biggest employers of architects and the highest-earners. Although the UK represents about half the number of employed architects as the US, UK firms earned almost as much in fee income.
Interestingly, the only firms to grace both the Top 10 list and Building Design’s survey of the Top 5 Most Admired Firms of 2012, were Gensler (#2 Largest; #4 Most Admired) and Foster & Partners (#10 Largest; #1 Most Admired). Zaha Hadid Architects (who shared the number 5 Most Admired spot with Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners, ranked as the 45th largest firm).
See our graphic and the full list of the world’s largest firms, after the break…