Friday, June 10, 2016

Big and beautiful?

A quarter of all architecture firms nationally are still sole practitioners, folks for which annual gross billing of even one million dollars is usually unattainable. For them the annual reporting about who is the biggest has little meaning, especially in an industry such as architecture where quality should count more than quantity.

But the glorious world of the sole practitioner is fading fast and probably romanticized beyond reason.

A quick look at the freshly released crop of top five Baltimore Architecture firms (in terms of billing) shows that size and quality aren't necessarily in conflict. In fact, one could argue that  Hord Caplan Macht's decision to up its design game with higher end projects such as the Union Wharf apartments in Fells Point opened their path to the #1 spot they took from Ayers Saint Gross, a firm long known for its design focus.
Remington Row: Seawall with Hord Coplan Macht

Here the BBJ top five list:

1. Hord Coplan Macht Inc.
Address: 750 E. Pratt. St., Baltimore
Local 2015 billings:$36.22 million
Total 2015 billings:$52.39 million

2. Ayers Saint Gross
Address: 1040 Hull St. #100, Baltimore
Local 2015 billings:$29.9 million
Total 2015 billings:$41.8 million

3. STV Inc.
Address: 7125 Ambassador Road #200, Baltimore
Local 2015 billings:$20.18 million
Total 2015 billings:$295.84 million
UB Law School: ASG with Behnisch Architects

4. Whitman, Requardt & Associates LLP
Address: 801 S. Caroline St., Baltimore
Local 2015 billings:$19.32 million
Total billings:$126.2 million

5. Design Collective Inc.
Address: 601 E. Pratt St. #300, Baltimore
Local 2015 billings:$17 million
Total 2015 billings:$23.67 million

An interesting thing is the inclusion of two engineering firms in the mix, both with relatively small architecture departments compared to their overall billing. Especially public clients like one-stop shopping and architects have to watch out that engineering firms don't become the drivers on all bigger projects with their own staff architects doing the design. 

The true national giant with a smaller presence in Baltimore such as AECOM (Architects and engineers) apparently didn't participate band isn't included in the full list of 25 firms at all. Gensler (only architects) is on rank 7 of the BBJ list because of their smaller local billing. Baltimore's maybe strongest design firm, Ziger Snead is placed on rank 19.

More about HCM, ASG and Design Collective can be found in the current series about Baltimore architects in their community on this blog.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

Read also the weekly in depth Community Architect articles this week: 
Connectivity - The Lifeline of Cities

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