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Small project drive delivers big for unconventional Glasgow practice

October 6 2020

Small project drive delivers big for unconventional Glasgow practice

A Glasgow-based architecture practice is brushing aside the pandemic to embark on an ambitious expansion drive which will see it recruit five new architects up and down the country.

Flush from raising £400k of private equity investment HOKO aims to employ 10 architects across ten cities, irrespective of economic uncertainty, by focussing exclusively on delivering small-scale residential extensions at volume.

Founder Danny Campbell told Urban Realm: “It’s misery everywhere, all my contacts seem to be clinging on with furlough, on one day a week or have been made redundant. It’s brutal. We’re hiring three architects and in a week we had 150 applicants. There’s a huge talent pool out there at the moment."

By moving against the herd Campbell senses a growth opportunity while others remain fearful, capitalising on a period where people have become acutely aware of their home environment: "The way our model is set up it works well for small extensions, we can make that model aspirational", he says.

"Architects see that work as unglamorous but it’s one of the only small crevices in the construction industry where people say thank-you.

"The whole construction industry is very fragmented. Most people don’t know where to find an architect and don’t know what an architect does. People make bad decisions by default."

By picking up the crumbs missed by others Campbell senses an opportunity to carve out a niche in a highly competitive market, an attitude which runs counter to an education system where big is still seen as beautiful.

Campbell continued: "I've seen Part 2 graduates who have prepared an urban masterplan, it’s unrealistic in the real world of building. There’s no mention of dealing with builders and clients, they don’t even really mention planning or building control.

"What you have is a few really big players who employ almost all the new graduates."

Looking ahead Campbell is determined to prove that architecture and architects aren't just for the rich, seeking to establish HOKO as a household name through an emphasis on marketing and simplifying its offer for clients.


#1 Posted by lm on 6 Oct 2020 at 12:42 PM
What a load of nonsense ! This is just big marketing road to nowhere! Criticizing others to gain something, this is terrible! Architecture is not about extensions and pleasing homeowners. We need Urban planners, designers, commercial architects, it's not about building homes extending homes. Other countries are doing a lot better than Scotland, architects are delivering high quality Work, cities are doing better than Glasgow because they are well planned and well built, not because properties are well refurbished or have a great extension.
#2 Posted by Brandwagon on 6 Oct 2020 at 13:51 PM
Private client, domestic architecture (done well) is actually very time consuming=expensive to deliver. You need a strong track record of successfully delivered, high quality projects in order to set a decent fee level, but more importantly, you have to give an attentive personal service to your client- whose hard earned money it is you are spending. It can't be done 'at volume'...unless you are copy+pasting standard dross of course...
You aint going to make much bread by picking up 'the crumbs'....but good luck.
#3 Posted by Dan on 6 Oct 2020 at 17:38 PM
Well.... we are a positive bunch...
Here is a guy who has seen an opportunity, got funding and set up a business with a positive spin on what is going to be a tough period for the industry.
Yes, small jobs are tough to make profitable, but at least he is going for it ...

Good Luck i say.
#4 Posted by Cadmonkey on 6 Oct 2020 at 19:05 PM
I'm surprised if he has raised £400k of investment to employ one architect in 10 different cities to "move against the herd" and "pick up the crumbs missed by others".
That's ... eh ... an unusual business model to have successfully sold to investors.
No wonder he is grinning.
The Phantom Architect
#5 Posted by The Phantom Architect on 6 Oct 2020 at 19:45 PM
I know an architect who does small jobs like he's talking about and they are flat out busy all the time, so many people asking them for work but they have to keep turning them away.

When people can't find proper architects to make the plans for the small jobs they often get people who aren't fully qualified architects to knock plans up.
Bob ra Builder
#6 Posted by Bob ra Builder on 7 Oct 2020 at 19:32 PM
#3 I say good luck too....
Good luck trying to resist giving the client 20+ options.
Good luck on doing some details that work.
#7 Posted by R J B on 8 Oct 2020 at 13:26 PM
Interesting to see how this works out.
I wonder if it might be end up being a sort of professionalised pattern book for the modern age. This might not be a bad thing.
david m
#8 Posted by david m on 8 Oct 2020 at 13:28 PM
Well done you mate. Dynamic young businessman looking at an angle and going for of luck.

Found the statement that "and architects aren't just for the rich" an odd perception. I can get a decent architect on a cheaper rate than I can a plumber or joiner!
#9 Posted by IndyNoo on 8 Oct 2020 at 16:12 PM
Are these the chaps offering unlimited design revisions on their sponsored social media adverts?! Slightly disconcerting - I wonder how that works out with fees / quality of work?
Marlon B
#10 Posted by Marlon B on 8 Oct 2020 at 22:15 PM
#9 dunno best ask James Dean there..
#11 Posted by Sceptical on 9 Oct 2020 at 11:47 AM
If all the sole trader Architects out there had thought of this . . . but seriously, best of luck and why not at least try, wish I could raise £400K investment (maybe there's a calling that has been missed).

I would have thought such a relationship is better forged with your Architect, not to allow a disconnect with a 'middle-man' where the danger of miscommunication and lost in translation abound.

My concern would be that if costs are driven down and services mass-produced to allow it, that this will ultimately lead to dilution of quality - but maybe that's just a point of view that years of experience has beaten into me, what do I know?
Danny Campbell
#12 Posted by Danny Campbell on 9 Oct 2020 at 14:32 PM
Thanks for the comments everyone! This has been an enjoyable read in the office today. Really appreciate the good luck messages and for the cynics, we have a lot of jobs going if you’re struggling.

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