‘This practice has a real balance and bravery,’ is how the judges sang the praises of Buckley Gray Yeoman (BGY). ‘Beautiful design work, consistent across type and scale. Huge growth across the year. It describes itself as “just on the right side of unconventional” – and that translates across a lot of these points. It’s hugely impressive.’
Certainly BGY, which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary, is in buoyant form and enthusiastically focused on the next 25 years. Turnover has leapt year-on-year (total fee income was £12.6 million in 2022, up from £8.6 million in 2021) as has the number of staff (just shy of 120, up from 90). There are 45 per cent women at board level. Thirty-eight per cent of its UK-based architects are women and 11 per cent are from ethnic minority backgrounds.
‘It genuinely feels there is communication with staff through the employee forums and they are challenging people to see if targets are high enough’
BGY is an employee ownership trust and its staff play an important role in helping shape the direction of the practice. In response to requests from staff, for example, BGY now has salary transparency. Employees help drive initiatives and targets through active forums, which meet three times a year and present to the board on a regular basis. The forums promote real change – Rachael Owens’ own head of sustainability role came out of the sustainability forum, and now she meets with the group and it holds her to account to push targets further.
Among BGY’s many sustainability drives, in 2022 Owens took part in Grosvenor’s SME mentoring programme, which helped the practice calculate its Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions and to set science-based reduction targets for these.
BGY has always worked with and championed the re-use of existing buildings, calling itself ‘re-design led’, and is working across a range of sectors from offices, homes and hotels to schools and shops. Recently completed projects include Technique, a mass timber extension to an existing structure; Panagram, which changed the ground floor at street level to ‘unlock’ the building; and Cromwell Place, which stitched six listed townhouses together to create a new cultural destination. The practice has launched a new outpost in Madrid to cater for its European work (such as Ancora 40, which breathes new life into a former garage to create a sustainable workplace). Its Bristol studio is thriving and its London centre in Hackney’s Tea Building encapsulates the beating heart of the practice. The Shoreditch Arts Club for staff and the local arts community is a significant new addition.
‘The practice is thinking ahead of the curve,’ said the judges. ‘It recognises that there are a lot of people who have a lot of knowledge and it brings them together to share that knowledge within the organisation. A lot of practices have forums – but do they listen to them? Here, it genuinely feels there is communication with staff through the employee forums and they are challenging people to see if targets are high enough. Great practice is about people, and BGY seems very collaborative in the way it works.’
- FaulknerBrowns Architects
- Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios
- Foster + Partners
- Sue Elabor, consultant, Blueprint for all
- John McElgunn, senior partner, RSHP
- Jennifer O'Donnell, co-founder, O'DonnellBrown
- David Ogunmuyiwa, principal, ArchitectureDoingPlace
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