Berlin and Istanbul offices close as architect makes ‘painful decision’ in face of cancelled projects

The practice of Norman Foster, perhaps the world’s most successful architect, is to make approximately a quarter of its 1,300 employees redundant.

Foster + Partners has closed its offices in Berlin and Istanbul and is understood to have put up to 400 employees on notice of redundancy.

With a presence in more than 20 countries and a turnover of £142m, Foster was widely considered to be well placed to ride out the recession. But with a host of projects cancelled or put on hold, the practice has been forced to react. Sources close to the firm said that in total nearly a third of its 1,300 employees had been notified that their jobs were at risk.

Fosters confirmed that its Berlin and Istanbul offices would close at the end of March. It is understood this will mean the loss of 76 jobs in Germany and between 10 and 20 in Turkey.

The firm said it would downsize to “just under a thousand” staff.

Mouzhan Majidi, chief executive of Foster + Partners, said the redundancy consultation had been a “very painful decision” to make. He said: “This decision has been the hardest for me in my career, given the wealth of talent we continue to attract.”

The move is a sobering illustration of how far the architectural industry has sunk since October, when Foster publicly vowed not to lay off staff. Architects across the UK are making severe staff cuts in order to control costs as the recession cuts swaths in forward order books. The Office of National Statistics revealed last week that architecture was the fastest-growing sector in terms of new claimants seeking benefits.

Government statistics say 48,000 construction workers were made redundant in the final quarter of 2008. Atkins this week announced it would cut 1,000 job – 5% of its global workforce.