Oculus - Winter 2010/2011 - (Page 24)
The thriving international market makes work abroad very attractive to large firms – if you’ve got the budget, management, and vision to support it By Richard Staub
national corporations and developers turned to firms such as Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF), and HOK for design help. Offering know-how that local firms didn’t have in creating complex, large-scale buildings, major New York practices began serving first the European market and then those in the Middle East and Asia, designing commercial towers that became urban landmarks. Some architects, such as Bradford Perkins, FAIA, who worked on international projects prior to co-founding Perkins Eastman, have practiced abroad all of their careers. In the 1960s and ’70s, HLW International got a head start designing laboratories and healthcare facilities for oil giant Aramco’s Middle Eastern projects. Perkins remembers firms starting to look abroad during the recession of the late ’70s. According to Paul Katz, FAIA, president of KPF, the big opening for KPF, SOM, Pelli Clarke Pelli, and several other firms came in the late ’80s when then-U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher reduced regulation and London-based financial service firms made plans for the first high-rise complex in the nation, Canary Wharf. Keeping pace, other countries followed and the international tall building race was on.
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t’s become a given that during a recession, large New York City architecture firms will look abroad for work. And indeed, the rewards can be substantial. Among the several firms Oculus talked to for this article, current fees for work abroad range from 20% to 70% of their annual income. Even in these straitened times, markets such as
China, India, Brazil, and parts of the Middle East remain far more robust than those in the U.S.
Perkins Eastman: The Concordia International School Shanghai is a new 129,200-square-foot high school completed through a joint effort of the firm’s New York and Shanghai offices
A Steep Learning Curve Of course, many firms started to work internationally for other reasons. Some already had connections through their leadership or staff or, in the case of David Brody Bond Aedas, had a client who brought them foreign opportunities. Others, like Steven Holl Architects, won a competition or, like Rafael Viñoly Architects, were sought out because of their design reputation. But however the firm won the project, taking the next big step of opening a thriving office meant a steep learning curve, with different legal systems, building codes, social customs, styles of building and design, currency, and probably language. Perkins, whose firm
Kohn Pedersen Fox: The International Commerce Center is the tallest building in Hong Kong and includes the highest hotel in the world, The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong
now works on four continents, offers a thorough overview in his book, International Practice for Architects (Wiley, 2007). “We gave a lot of thought to opening offices abroad before we did so in the mid-1990s,” says Ted Hammer, FAIA, LEED AP, a partner-incharge at HLW International. “We considered who should lead the effort and office locations from both a design and business development perspective. When we opened our London and Shanghai offices, entrepreneurial members of our New York office who came from those cities started them up. And most of those offices’ staffs now come from the region.” “In 2005 and 2006, when FXFOWLE Architects was looking to diversify, we were lucky to have a senior partner, Sudhir Jambhekar,
But getting work abroad is hardly a piece of cake. Even firms with several decades of experience enter each new country on the lookout OCULUS WINTER 10/11 24 for unknowns – such as currency restrictions, different land-use laws, and standards of construction. And they do so knowing that equally experienced international competitors may be right on their tail, if not already there. That hasn’t always been the case. Indeed, accelerating in the late 1980s, as foreign markets became primed for major development, inter-
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Oculus - Winter 2010/2011
Oculus - Winter 2010/2011
A Word from the Editor
Center for Architecture
One Block Over
So Says...Craig Dykers, AIA, LEED AP
How Cities Learn from Each Other
Why Isn’t Architecture a U.S. Export Priority?
When Small Firms Venture Abroad
Division of Labor
Out of Africa
Thinking Globally, Acting Humbly
Index to Advertisers
Oculus - Winter 2010/2011
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