April 18, 2011 12:12 PM
Architecture firms' latest design is for growth
Five largest firms ranked by Crain's all added employees last year; Kohn Pedersen Fox tops list, followed by Perkins Eastman and Gensler.
By Marine Cole
With developers once again daring to make plans for new projects, many of New York's biggest architecture firms are hiring again, according to Crain's New York Business' latest ranking of New York's largest architecture firms.
Out of the city's 20 largest firms, 12 added architects during 2010, while only four cut their staff of architects. Hiring has been across the board, from entry-level posts all the way up to the most experienced.
“We're seeing a growth in activity in North America, in particular on the East Coast,” said Paul Katz, managing principal at Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, which was ranked as the largest architecture firm by staff count in the New York area with 163 licensed architects in 2010, up from 154 architects in 2009.
Kohn Pedersen Fox has been working on the Hudson Yards project on Manhattan's West Side, which is being developed by The Related Cos. The firm is also working on redeveloping Goldman Sachs' Embassy Suites in lower Manhattan.
“New York started coming out of the recession earlier than the rest of the country, and business is improving, but it's still uneven,” said Bradford Perkins, chairman and chief executive of Perkins Eastman, which is the second largest architecture firm in the city, employing 158 licensed architects in 2010, up from 127 in 2009. The firm was listed in third position the previous year. Mr. Perkins noted, for example, that firms focusing on residential projects are still struggling as few residential buildings are being built.
In contrast, work at Perkins Eastman is starting to come back, especially at some of its largest institutional clients—including major medical centers, which represent more than 50% of the firm's work. Perkins Eastman started designing a new hospital for Memorial Sloan-Kettering in January. Mr. Perkins noted that the firm also specializes in retirement communities, a practice that has become busy again. It additionally received a number of large school projects both in the U.S. and overseas.
Ranking third on the Crain's list is Gensler, which slipped from its second place perch in 2009. It is followed by HOK and Skidmore Owings & Merrill. All of the Top 5 firms boast over 100 architects; all were also hiring in 2010.
Most New York architecture firms tried to weather the recession by expanding internationally. Most are continuing to focus a great deal of their attention overseas, especially in China and India.
“For large firms, our practice by necessity is becoming global,” said Mr. Perkins, adding that roughly a third of his firm's practice is overseas. “The percentage of work overseas has gone up sharply during the recession.”
This is true at Kohn Pedersen Fox, too, where a little more than half of the firm's work is focused internationally. “We've always been working overseas but more so during the recession,” Mr. Katz said.