After Melbourne-based firm Rothelowman has recently merged with Brisbane-based firm whitearchitecture, Architecture & Design spoke to manging principal Shane Rothe about the evolution of architecture firms and the role mergers and acquisitions play.

For whitearchitecture, the merger gives the seven-member team the ability to provide clients with the benefits of increased resources.

For Rothelowman, the merger gives the practice an immediate, on-the-ground presence in Queensland, giving them direct access to staff and resources in the state.

Why did Rothelowman and whitearchitecture merge?

Rothelowman was expanding in Queensland and found that whitearchitecture shared not only similar clients, but also work culture, design ideals and business acumen.

Are mergers becoming more popular?

It seems that mergers of architectural firms within Australia are few and far between. This seems to be due to the design culture — it is difficult to align different firms and their people.

How do mergers enhance business opportunities?

It helps if the merged entity has an existing clientele, business systems, office space, staff and networks in place. It allows the merged entity to grow more quickly than ‘starting from scratch.’

What do two architecture firms working collaboratively bring to a project, as opposed to one firm working on a project?

Extra resources, expanded skills, extensive experience, speed of delivery, alternate views, etc.

How important is it to have architects involved in projects who are based in the area where a project is built?

The design competition for a residential 30-storey tower was between firms from three different states. The client was seeking new ideas in conjunction with strong local input and experience. ROTHELOWMANWHITE provided this outcome.

What design trends are you witnessing in architecture at the moment, nationally and globally?

Contemporary architecture continues to be influenced by environmentally sustainable design principles, 3D computer technology and innovative new materials and building systems. New forms of architecture can be achieved now that in the past would not be contemplated. Pre-fabrication and off-site construction continues to dominate the architects’ thinking to ensure construction costs are kept within commercial budgets.

A Southport Park project by whitearchitecture

What do you think will be the evolution of architecture firms in Australia?

Unlike the emergence of large companies of services engineers being created through the mergers and acquisitions process, merging of architectural firms in Australia is less common. Succession planning for architectural firms tends to be through the transitioning of share ownership to employees of the firm and not the selling of the entire business to another entity.

It has also become more difficult in recent times for smaller firms to gain a foothold in the larger commercial markets. Therefore larger firms have grown and increased the gap to the many smaller (less then 10 people) architectural practices.