Practices cut UK staff as American clients shelve projects and UK firms expect workload to fall 25% in 2002.
in one of the first signs that Britain will not be immune to the deepening US recession, American architects are shedding staff from their UK offices.

Two commercial practices, Gensler and Interior Architects, this week confirmed that they had been forced to make redundancies. A third, Swanke Hayden Connell International, said it was expecting to cut staff as part of its plans to refocus on public sector work.

Andrew Justice, marketing director at Swanke Hayden Connell, said: "The practice will be making business adjustments and it is inevitable that there will be casualties." He added that the firm was carrying out a review into how the practice could reposition itself to focus on public sector work.

Gensler said it had made more than 20 staff redundant last week after a review of its worldwide operations. Interior has laid off 10 architects at its London office.

HOK International, another US practice with UK operations, refused to comment on whether it would be making redundancies. But an insider at the firm said positions within the corporate and commercial interiors division were being relocated to other divisions.

He said employees had not yet been told whether there would be job cuts within the practice, but added: "Everybody is aware that there is a downturn and that jobs are unsafe. It will come as no surprise if cuts are made here soon."

Gensler and Interior cited a sharp drop in fit-out work in the City as the prime reason for the cuts, especially among big American commercial clients in the high-tech sector.

Everybody is aware that jobs are unsafe. It will come as no surprise if cuts are made here soon

HOK International source

Keith Keppler, Interior's managing director, said clients had put jobs on hold until after their end-of-year financial results. He said: "It remains unclear when [the projects] will begin again."

A Gensler statement said: "A year ago, the practice had a large portfolio of technology clients. Since then there has been a slowdown, and the events of 11 September have added to a general downturn in business confidence."

The practice, which is now left with 200 staff at its London office, said it would focus on areas such as interiors, masterplanning, consulting and brand and retail design.

The statement added: "The practice regrets that the redundancies were necessary and believes that Gensler is now well placed for sustainable growth in the future."

The downturn in work has yet to affect major UK commercial practices. However, one commercial architect based in the UK said it would be felt next year. He said: "I know of some big-name architects that are looking at a drop in turnover of 20-25%."

The architect said there was presently an imbalance between outline design work and detailed design work, as schemes are being put on hold.