GaWC Research Bulletin 128

GaWC logo
  Gateways into GaWC

This Research Bulletin has been published in Journal of Architectural Education, 58 (3), (2005), 23-32, under the title "Toward a Geography of the Globalization of Architecture Office Networks".


Please refer to the published version when quoting the paper.


Globalization of Architectural Practice

P.L. Knox and P.J. Taylor


This paper examines the globalization of architectural practice, focusing on the global strategies of architectural firms in relation to those of advanced business services and to the evolving network of world cities that provides the spatial framework for economic globalization. A basic geography of global practice is identified and multivariate statistical analysis is used to identify four distinctive 'global arenas' in which architectural firms are involved. In a final section, the implications of these findings for architectural education are discussed.

Professional practice in architecture has long had an international component and a cosmopolitan outlook. The international reach of architecture as a profession was established well before World War II by the commissions of leading practitioners such as Albert Kahn and Le Corbusier. It was consolidated by Philip Johnson and Henry Russel Hitchcock's promotion of the idea of an 'International Style'; by the international migration of Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe, and others; by the Athens Charter published by CIAM (the Congrés Internationaux d'Architecture Moderne); and by the colonial practices of British, French, and Italian architects. After World War II it was further propagated by the commissions of successive generations of leading practitioners-Louis Kahn, Eero Saarinen, and so on; and, more prosaically, by some large U.S. architecture and engineering (A&E) firms, such as CRS, whose commissions derived from the U.S. government's foreign aid projects (many of them focused on infrastructure projects and 'tied' to the participation of U.S. firms) and from the neo-colonial investments of U.S. corporations.

But until recently most practices have been organized around a local, regional, or national framework. Globalization has changed all that. Enabled by digital and telecommunications technologies, by advanced international business services, and by the emergence of clients with transnational operations and a cosmopolitan sensibility, the portfolio of many architecture firms has an international component and the scope of operations of many of the largest firms is now truly global. The purposes of this article are to describe the current extent and pattern of global architectural practice and to explore its implications for architectural education.

Sixteen years ago the United States National Research Council anticipated the globalization of architectural practice. The joint report of the Committee on the International Construction Industry of the Building Research Board and the Commission on Engineering and Technical Systems of the National Research Council1 pointed to the challenges for higher education associated with the expected globalization of the construction industry and the related design and engineering professions. In terms of architectural education, the report emphasized the need for students to acquire greater knowledge of foreign languages and to have a better idea of world geography, history, culture, and business practices, and suggested that the Fulbright Program should be expanded to encourage more architects and engineers to gain exposure to other cultures.2 The research reported here provides an initial indication of the scale and spatial organization of the globalization of architectural practice, most of which has taken place since the Research Council's report was published.


The first wave of corporate globalization, in the 1970s, was led by manufacturing giants like General Motors and General Electric, whose global reach had the triple objectives of reducing labor costs, outflanking national labor unions, and increasing overseas market penetration. In the 1980s, as the globalization of manufacturing spread and the information economy began to grow, the leading firms in advanced business services-accountancy, advertising, banking, and law - established global networks of their own. As these leading service firms themselves became global corporations in the 1990s, they developed global servicing strategies through locating offices in many cities across the world. Such cities, operating as part of a worldwide network, have been termed world or global cities.3

Architecture firms have been slower to go global, but the sustained economic boom of the 1990s saw many larger firms extend their operations through office networks that are international in scope. By 2002 the largest firms, such as Nikken Sekkei, HOK, and Gensler, had dozens of overseas projects scattered across every continent except Antarctica. Even smaller firms, like Architectural Resources (Cambridge, USA), Wilson Mason (London, United Kingdom), Theofanis Bobotis and Associates (Athens, Greece), and Hayball Leonard Stent (Southbank, Australia), each with 20 or fewer fee-earning architects on staff, had international projects on their books.

The economic logic of globalization had induced a global outlook that is manifest in two practice developments. First, many US- and European-based firms had begun to take advantage of international outsourcing, drawing on pools of skilled but inexpensive labor in South Asia and the Pacific Rim. Second, with an international clientele, firms developed global office networks to serve an increasingly complex market. There has been very little systematic empirical research on either of these processes. In this paper we focus of the office network development of a sample of the largest architecture firms in 2002, focusing on firms with global strategies. We define a global strategy as a network of offices that includes locations on at least three continents. The development of these firms has been reminiscent of the globalization of advanced business service practices briefly described above, and we use recent research on these advanced business service office networks as markers against which to compare the new global dimensions of architectural practice.

The literature on the globalization of advanced business services shows that although different sectors such as accounting, advertising, banking, and law have different clienteles and different market imperatives, the same world cities have become key nodes for the networks of business that drive and shape globalization.4 Thus, cities such as London, New York, Tokyo and Paris have become global service centers, nodes that organize the servicing of today's hyper-mobile global capital. A world city network has emerged, concentrated in three main regions - northern America, western Europe and Pacific Asia - but with cities across the world linking their region or country into the network.5

Major architectural firms, like their advanced service counterparts, are traditionally city-centered and have recently developed multi-city presences. In this paper we examine the extent to which the globalization of architectural practice has adopted the city network of advanced business services as its spatial framework, and analyze the particular specificities that architectural firms bring to evolving world city networks. The argument unfolds in three steps:

  • First, we consider the global strategies of architectural firms to show they have similar motives to other firms in their choosing to 'go global'.
  • Second, global practices are described as a basic world geography of where global architectural firms have their offices.
  • Third, we produce a more sophisticated geography by employing multivariate statistics to identify 'global arenas' in which global architectural firms perform their practice. In the conclusion, we relate our findings to current issues in architectural education.


The pursuit of global markets for architectural services goes well beyond the setting up of project-based offices for overseas clients. As reflected in the extensive literature on international business management, strategic intent in the global marketplace involves a range of possibilities and varies from industry to industry.6 Faced with a globalizing economy, firms must address how best to complement competitive advantages that have been developed in home markets with additional advantages that can be gained from worldwide operations. For advanced business and professional services, the relevant options include mergers, strategic alliances, joint ventures, and the creation of overseas regional and national offices of various kinds, all of which have contributed to the contemporary development of a world city network.

The globalization of advanced financial and business service firms was initially a reaction to the global practices of clients. If, say, a law firm or advertising agency wished to keep the business of a major corporation, it had to be able to provide its services where that corporation required them. If this international trend in corporate activities had remained small-scale, then the required services might have been provided as a one-off arrangement with a respected local firm. But such stop-gap practices ultimately proved inadequate. Thus business service firms followed their clients along the globalization path in the late 1970s and especially in the 1980s. This meant creating an office network to match clients' needs. After a while some business service firms used their global office network to win more clients in new markets. By the 1990s, many firms could offer a 'seamless service' across the world which was attractive to clients, old and new, and also allowed for quality control. Business service firms became 'global brands' whose integrity required protection: this could not be guaranteed through arrangements with local firms. Hence expanding office networks to provide worldwide servicing capabilities became necessary. In this way, global strategies by major service firms created a world city network.7

Selected cities thus operate as global service centers, knowledge-rich environments where global, regional, national and local market information intersects with new professional, business and creative ideas.8 Detailed empirical analyses have shown that London and New York dominate this world city network with other important cities located in the United States (Chicago and Los Angeles), western Europe (Paris and Milan) and Pacific Asia (Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Singapore).9 Generally, there is a greater density of leading world cities in western Europe (Madrid, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Brussels, Zürich). Elsewhere in the world there are major cities acting as 'gateways' to regional and national economies (e.g. São Paulo, Mexico City, Mumbai, Moscow, Sydney, Toronto and Johannesburg). A basic question to be asked is the degree to which architectural firms have adhered to this established world city network in the recent globalization of their practices.

There are reasons to think that architectural firms will have globalized differently from advanced financial and business service firms. First of all, despite their growth in recent years, most major architectural firms remain smaller than the equivalent advanced business service firms. Obviously this makes provision of a global office network more difficult. Reinforcing this is the project-based nature of architectural practice. Although advanced business services are to some degree project based - an advertising campaign, a complex legal merger case - architectural work is inherently more 'lumpy' over time with potentially profound implications for global strategy. Nevertheless, if we look at the way in which leading architectural firms project themselves on their web sites we find that they use globalization discourses that closely mimic prior globalizers in financial and business services. Four themes regularly appear when firms describe their global strategies.

  1. They have been very client-led. For instance, the US company EDAW is explicit that its location strategy is a response to the global nature of their clients' business.10 Similarly, the Japanese company Kajima Design recorded a significant increase in international operations in the 1980s and subsequently reorganized by setting up 'regional subsidiary companies' in response to a growing customer base across the world.11 This story is repeated time and again. HOK Group argue that geographical expansion to serve clients has been important.12 For AEDAS, it is stated that increasing numbers of their clients need a more global approach because they are competing in a world arena.13 CH2M Hill explain the practice rationale behind global strategy: their 200 offices around the world are in place because 'personal relationships are important for results.'14
  2. Seamless service enriches solutions for clients. Going global is not seen as simply an aggregative process. Rather, a new vision of a global holistic practice is presented. Thus EDAW claim to be a 'firm without walls' because its offices work together as a seamless whole. For HOK Group sophisticated technology allows their employees to work as one 'virtual office.' Gensler embarked on a 'new identity program' in 1995 (including name change) to reflect their expanded office network enabling every client to benefit from the firm's 'innovative design and technical proficiency' regardless of location.15 Similarly, NBBJ operate through sharing resources across geographical locations.16 The promise behind these visions is, as AEDAS describe their 'global perspective,' to provide a consistent level of delivery in different geographical locations.
  3. Global advantages are coupled with local knowledge. Worldwide services do not translate into neglect of the local; with AEDAS their global perspective is accompanied by 'locally driven solutions.' They claim to provide clients with 'all that is expected from a global player in terms of expertise, international design flair, security and client service but with the invaluable additional benefit of real local knowledge.' More prosaically, Woods Bagot use their office network to 'service global clients regionally'17 and Bovis Lend Lease offer both global and local capabilities by combining 'local knowledge with extensive global resources.'18 A. Epstein & Sons have coined the phrase 'think globally and create locally' to describe their strategy.19 Clearly there is a global-local nexus at the heart of architectural global strategies.
  4. There are contrasting global strategies along a generalist/specialist divide. Certain firms combine their global presence with offering a comprehensive package of services. For instance, Kajima Design offices are billed as 'full-service architectural organizations.' NBBJ claim to have become one of the world leaders in design by creating 'process design' which maps a success path for each project. The classic case is Bovis Lend Lease which offers the capability to manage the entire property life cycle from planning through to development and implementation. Other firms, however have sought out niches in the world market for architectural services: Peddle Thorp in tourism, leisure and entertainment;20 Woods Bagot in health, education, transport and retail; Halcrow Group in transport, water and property sectors;21 HLW International in media;22 TY Lin International in transportation infrastructure;23 and Wimberly A T & G in hotels, resorts, leisure and entertainment.24 Put simply, there are many strategies behind establishing a global practice.

This preliminary look at global architectural strategy certainly suggests that these firms will not differ greatly in their global location practices from advanced business service firms. However, even within advanced business services, different sectors, with their contrasting histories and uses of cities, have globalized in distinctive ways. For instance, banking/finance beyond London and New York has a very Pacific Asian bias whereas management consultancy is especially strong in US cities. Thus we can expect architectural practice to broadly adhere to the world city network of global service centers but with some strategic location specificities reflecting the particular route to globalization of architectural practice.


For comparative reasons, data collection has been modeled on that previously carried out for analyses of the global organization of advanced business service firms.25 This involves constructing a simple 'business service values' matrix, arraying the offices of selected global firms across a large number of important cities worldwide. The 'business service values' indicate how important a particular city is deemed to be within the overall office network of a firm. This is coded as numeric scores ranging from 0 (no importance, i.e. no office in that city) to 5 (the most important city in the office network, i.e. housing the firm's headquarters or decision making center). For this study, a similar matrix arraying architectural firms across cities in terms of 'architectural practice values' has been constructed; specific details of the construction are given in the Appendix.

The architectural practice values matrix comprises the office networks of 21 architectural firms across 65 cities worldwide. Each cell indicates the importance of a city to a particular firm's global office strategy. Interpretation of this matrix is quite straightforward. Each column of values represents a codification of a firm's global strategy in the sense of where its leading offices are, where else it is present, and where it is absent. Each row of values represents the mix of architectural firms in a city, which are there, which are not, and which have important offices. In other words this is a simple data array representing the globalization of architecture practice.

How does this matrix compare to the equivalent service values matrix? The matrix used for the analyses reported here is somewhat smaller than that used for studying the global organization of advanced business services. For the latter there were 100 firms and 123 cities, reflecting the more widespread and deeper globalization of business services. Nevertheless, the matrix we have created for architectural practices is large: it consists of 1365 architectural practice scores. This is more than enough to obtain a first glimpse of the new global geography of architectural practices both through initial mapping and by applying multivariate analyses.


To measure the importance of each of the 65 cities for global architectural practice, we simply sum the firms' practice values for each city. This exercise shows London to be by far the leading city with a total of 51, followed by New York and San Francisco on 26. There are 9 cities with scores of over 20 and these are listed in Table 1. We can think of these as the premier architectural practice cities. Note that they broadly conform to the geography of global advanced business services: 8 of the 9 are from western Europe, USA and Pacific Asia. However, although predictably including the 'big 3 cities' from Pacific Asia, the distribution between Europe and the USA is unexpectedly very lop-sided: London is joined by no other European city whereas there are four US cities listed. The other surprise is Melbourne. Although not an insubstantial global service center, it is by no means in the top rank globally and is not even first ranked for business services within Australia.

This top stratum of architectural global cities can only be understood if we view them in context with the remaining 56 cities. Using practice value sums the other cities are divided into four other strata and these are mapped in Figure 1. Three things immediately emerge from this global distribution. First, the importance of the USA and Pacific Asia with respect to western Europe is confirmed: numerous western European cities are depicted but, after London, they all only figure in the bottom two strata. Second, Melbourne in the top stratum is not a geographical aberration; other Australian cities appear as important cities of architectural practice. Third, middle-eastern cities are relatively well represented in the middle strata, with more cities at this level than western Europe! Finally a few cities appear from other world regions, but the numbers are quite small and there is no representation at all in sub-Saharan Africa and central Asia.

This basic geography of architectural practice provides several strong hints about the nature of this particular dimension of globalization. Most obviously it appears to be a market-led process that concentrates global architectural practice in leading cities in four regions: USA, Pacific Asia, Australia and the Middle East. These regional markets are very different: US cities represent a long-term tradition of large-scale building renewal and development; Pacific Asia has been the boom region of contemporary globalization with development focused upon its major cities; Australia possibly represents a smaller version of the US cities process; and the Middle East is a region of concentrated wealth creating political clients who are trying to boost their local cities. The latter two interpretations do not correspond with findings on global service centers: neither Australia nor the Middle East is as important in this larger globalization and therefore we keep an open mind about what is going on in these two cases of architectural practice concentration. But the demotion of western European cities from constituting a leading global services region to playing a minor role in global architectural practices does seem to be clear-cut. For instance, Paris always appears in the top 5 world cities for global advanced business services; here it scores a paltry 7 for the architectural practice sum. While London is clearly 'the global place to be' for global architectural practice, it may be that London's preeminence casts a 'shadow effect' on other western European cities: it has been demonstrated that New York has this effect for advanced business services in the United States.26 However, this can only remain a hypothesis; all we know from Figure 1 is that London is the outstanding city of global architectural practice in western Europe with no rivals whatsoever.

This is as far as a basic geography can take us in our interpretation of this globalization. We need a more sophisticated geographical analysis to take the argument forward and tie up some of the loose ends identified above.


We use principal components analysis (see Appendix) to identify distinctive patterns of office networks among our sample of large architecture firms. Principal components analysis is a multivariate statistical technique that reduces large data matrices to a few major dimensions of variability.27 It is commonly used to delineate distinctive patterns that are latent within data but which are lost in simple aggregations such as the summing of practice values in the previous section. Principal components analysis uses correlations between variables in a data matrix to cluster like-variables (our firms) and like-cases (our cities) together. Each separate cluster defines a principal component, a dimension of common variability. In our analysis, firms with similar patterns of offices across cities will describe a particular component, a distinctive (statistically separate) common pattern of global architectural practice.

Principal components analysis reveals a prime structure in our data that comprises four components that between them account for 48.7% of the total variance. Thus we reduce 21 individual global strategies into just four general patterns of strategy. Although this is a very parsimonious solution, it covers a little less than half the variation in the data. Naturally we would have liked to have captured more variance but it appears to be the nature of this particular aspect of globalization that there are many unique features to the global strategies of architectural firms. Perhaps this reflects the fact that the globalization of architectural practice is in its early stages. Nevertheless, to find just four common patterns covering almost one half of the architectural practices in our sample shows that a definite spatial configuration is emerging.

The four components divide into two pairs in terms of their importance. Two 'major' components account for 16% and 15.4% of the total variance respectively, and two 'minor' components account for 8.9% and 8.4% respectively. The key statistics for each pair are presented in Tables 2 and 3. The listed cities are used to label the components; we call them the architectural practice arenas. The geography is reasonably clear-cut: we have found a Global City Arena, an Austral-Asian Arena, a Middle Eastern Arena and a US Domestic Arena. We will describe them in order of importance.


The Global City Arena (Table 2) is based upon the top four US world cities (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco) plus London and Tokyo. The two leading global cities, London and New York, have the highest scores. This unequivocally reflects a practice location strategy that concentrates offices in the world's top cities. It is primarily the product of leading US architectural firms. For instance HOK is the largest US architectural practice (second largest worldwide), originating in St Louis, it has followed its clients to become global. Gensler perhaps shows the typical expansion pattern: from its San Francisco base, it opened its New York office in 1979, its London office in 1988 and its Tokyo office in 1993. In 1995 it promoted a new global identity and changed its name in the process. HLW of New York made its name originally with skyscraper design in the 1920s, from 1985-2000 there was a dramatic change in its client base and today it assists developers globally with urban design and high rise development. NBBJ of Seattle originally became the leading North West practice but, in the 1990s, they became world leaders with their 'process design' approach which projected them as new global players in the market. RTKL started in Annapolis and Epstein in Chicago and both now have a world-wide presence. Kajima of Tokyo is the only non-US firm listed in Table 2; its strategy is obviously similar to those described above, for instance, by setting up subsidiary design companies in London and New York as part of its global strategy. The end result of these various global strategies has been to create a very clear-cut architectural arena centered on the top strata of world cities.

The Austral-Asian Arena (Table 2) is another clearly defined arena, this time regional rather than by city status. Of the 8 cities listed, 4 are from Pacific Asia and three are from Australia, with London making up the numbers. This relates to two features from Table 1: first, the 'extra-regional' appearance of London in this component reflects the city's dominance in the organization of global architectural practice, and second, the position of Melbourne at the top of the list confirms its surprising appearance as a leading city for global architectural practice. To a large degree this global practice arena has been created by Australian architectural firms taking advantage of growing markets in the Pacific Asian boom region. The Sydney firm Peddle Thorp, for instance, grew initially as a leading Australian practice but with the end of the post World War II boom it turned its attention to successful Asian economies for new opportunities to sustain growth. In 1972 it collaborated with a leading local firm to satisfy the demand for architectural expertise in a rapidly modernizing Singapore. Later it used the same strategy in Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong. The Adelaide firm, Woods Bagot, has a similar record of expansion from Australia to Pacific Asia. Aedas is a British company that has focused its growth in Pacific Asia and Australia. Bovis Lend Lease exhibits a mix of the previous processes: Bovis, a British firm with Asian and Australian business, was taken over by an Australian firm, Lend Lease, in 1999 to create a truly global enterprise but with a geographical bias to Australia and Pacific Asia. Australian operations began early, in 1951; Singapore was entered in 1973, by 1981 it was in Malaysia where one of its projects was the Petronas Twin Towers. EDAW and CH2H Hill are US firms with major trans-Pacific expansions. The end-result of these related expansion strategies is a major architectural global arena within a clearly defined world macro-region.

Neither of these major components has much affinity to the advanced business service fields found in components analyses of global business service firms.28 There is no case where all the top cities come together as in component I above: it would seem that, for architectural services, global cities have a specific 'global city' market and attraction. With advanced business services, Australian cities contribute to 'old Commonwealth' patterns, with little or no linkage to Asian cities to the north: it would seem that Australian architectural firms have taken advantage of booming Pacific Asian cities and carved out a market for themselves in a way that Australian business service firms were never able to achieve. The latter is impressive when it is noted that Tokyo and its firms do not figure in this practice arena. Tokyo and Kajima are part of the Global City arena and not part of their local geographical practice arena.

The Middle Eastern Arena (Table 3) is another geographical practice arena, with 6 out of its 9 cities from the Middle East, including the top 4. On this occasion New York joins with London as an extra-regional global city presence. The other city in the list, Kuala Lumpur, has religious-cultural links to the Middle East. The regional expansion process operating here is of Mediterranean Arab practices taking advantages of the oil wealth and resultant opportunities in the Arabian Peninsula. Both Dar Al-Handasah29 and Khatib & Alami30 are Beirut firms with global strategies on a Middle East foundation. The former first expanded throughout the Middle East in the 1970s and main design headquarters were established in London and Cairo. Its main expansion came with meeting the construction needs of 1980s modernization in the Middle East. This company now has 50 offices worldwide, Khatib & Alami remain more concentrated in the Middle East. The end result of these global strategies is the creation of a very distinctive geographical practice arena.

The US Domestic Arena (Table 3) is the most geographically concentrated of all practice arenas. Note that the USA's three global cities, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, are not listed. This is parallel to Tokyo's absence from the Austral-Asian arena: the main cities of the region/country are part of the Global City arena rather than their local geographical arena. Note also that this is the only arena in which London does not appear. This leaves San Francisco and Washington as the cities that dominate this arena. The global strategies described here all have a strong US foundation. The firms are all American, the two with lower loadings also appearing in the Global City component. The end result of these strategies is the maintenance of a domestic practice arena within globalization.

These two minor arenas differ in their relation to previously defined service fields. The Middle Eastern arena is unique to architectural practice, no doubt reflecting the different nature of the clientele: as well as corporate clients shared with other services, architecture can still find rich patrons in traditional states. In contrast, the US arena is similar to the organization of global business service networks, where US cities also appear as a separate grouping.31 In this case, for both architecture and advanced business services, the US market is so large within the global economy that it facilitates a safe global strategy based upon keeping a large domestic portfolio.

Finally, we need to comment on what is missing from this identification of global arenas of architectural practice: western Europe. This omission provides a stark contrast with global analyses of advanced business services, where European cities dominate several professional fields. Previously we noted the low involvement of European cities after London (Table 1), and this has translated into there being no European dimension to our component findings. Using an exploratory approach to principal components analysis32 involving searching through extractions of different numbers of components still failed to yield a discernable European component: it is clear that the globalization of architectural practice has not built a western European arena. Clearly continental Europe has not been a region of extensive architectural opportunities in the recent past as compared to Pacific Asia, the USA, and even the Middle East. It seems that long established modern commercial cities collectively have not generated a key market for architectural services under conditions of contemporary globalization. Note that this includes US cities from the northeast, such as Boston, that are conspicuous by their absence from the US Domestic arena. Of course, London and New York are special in global terms and are exempt from the scope of this hypothesis. Quite simply, the bottom line is the bottom line: western European and northeastern US cities have globally significant markets in advanced business services but are relatively insignificant as markets for architectural services.


Our analysis has established the lineaments of one key dimension of global practice: the inter-continental networks of offices established by large firms. This, of course, reflects the meta-scale organization of international architectural practice, rather than the aggregate amount and pattern(s) of international practice. It leaves unaddressed some important and intriguing questions: What is the nature of the work and the magnitude of the fees involved? Who exactly are the professionals that are engaged in international work and what is their educational and professional background? What are the patterns of work undertaken by firms whose international networks of offices do no extend to three or more continents? And do large A&E firms have significantly different strategies from cutting-edge design firms?

What is clear, however, is that architectural practice now has a significant dimension that is truly global and that is somewhat distinctive in comparison with patterns of globalization associated with advanced business services. While the 'arenas' of practice that emerge from multivariate analysis suggest that the globalization of architectural practice is at a relatively early stage, it is clear that a definite spatial configuration is emerging as a result of the international strategies of large firms. These large firms-which in North America employ a high proportion of the circa 4,500 graduates each year from accredited schools of Architecture-are increasingly drawn into international projects through the dynamics of global business, and many of them already have a truly global network (using our 3-continent criterion) of operations.

The implications for architectural education are profound. Boyer and Mitgang, in the introduction to their review of architectural education and practice, noted that the combination of globalization and computerization "has implications for architecture education that many schools are only beginning to confront."33 These implications are conspicuously absent from the body of their report, however, and consequently they offer no recommendations or concrete examples of how they might be confronted. Moreover, with professional registration and accreditation dominated as they are by organizations whose membership base and frame of reference is small firms, there are severe constraints on schools of architecture in meeting the challenge of providing curricula that prepare students for professional practice in a transnational (rather than a parochial) arena.

Nevertheless, there is arguably plenty of scope within the National Architectural Registration Board's 12 Conditions and 37 Performance Criteria for curricula to accommodate some knowledge of business practices and an understanding of world geography, history, and culture, as advocated by the United States National Research Council sixteen years ago. Indeed, many universities in the United States do in fact address these issues-traditionally via required courses on professional practice, with elective courses and seminars on topics in history and urbanism and with opportunities for study abroad and student exchanges. It would help, of course, if there were something equivalent in scope, funding, and organization to the European Union's Socrates II program that includes the Erasmus scheme,34 which supports an international student credit transfer scheme (ECTS: the European Credit Transfer System) as well as international student and faculty exchanges, the joint development of study programs, and thematic networks between departments across Europe. Improved language skills are another matter. While globalization has made English the professional and commercial linga franca, it has also intensified the expectation that professionals at a certain level should exhibit a degree of cosmopolitanism that extends, at minimum, to a few social courtesies and some technical reading ability in a second language. Foreign language teaching is an appallingly weak aspect of the US education system, but by college years it may be too late and in any case there is insufficient room in accredited curricula to redress the degree of deficiency. College admissions requirements may be the only effective means of addressing the language issue.

Meanwhile, if a university education from an accredited professional program is expected to prepare graduates for success in a globalizing profession, then universities must also consider strategies that parallel the global strategies of firms themselves. The pace, scale, and scope of global change require, in any event, a capacity on the part of scholars and researchers that is equivalent to that of large and cutting-edge firms.  Just as firms benefit from international strategic alliances in production and marketing, so universities can benefit from strategic alliances that involve significant numbers of faculty in collaborative research, in offering advanced, specialized degrees, and in faculty development initiatives.  Such alliances imply cooperation and collaboration both among disciplines and might also extend to involve private-sector firms, public agencies, and NGOs. They would extend the capacity of individual schools and enrich the learning environment of students.

On the other hand, there is an argument to be made that undergraduate education in general and first professional degrees in particular cannot really be expected to furnish the kind of knowledge and experience requisite to international practice. The argument here is that work experience and internship programs are the appropriate settings for professional development, especially with regard to the need for capacity-building in management and leadership-an issue that has recently been a topic of priority for the AIA's Large Firm Round Table.35 Still, there is scope here to think about contributions from the universities-if not within undergraduate and/or first professional degrees then in innovative (for architecture) programs such as an Executive Masters degree or Executive Certificate programs.

Finally, we must acknowledge that the issues are compounded by another key dimension of global practice: international outsourcing. Little systematic knowledge exists of the patterns, flows, or levels of international outsourcing (here is another important research topic). Meanwhile, anecdotal evidence suggests that many European and North American firms are turning to international outsourcing for working drawings and 3D visualizations-partly because of the reduced costs, and partly because of the increased speed of production when routine tasks are outsourced to overseas firms for overnight completion. More than 4,300 jobs in architecture, art, and design were moved offshore from the United States in 2000; but the figure for 2005 is expected to be close to 38,000.36 Many of these will be middle-tier jobs in architecture-it has been suggested that as many as 14,000 architecture jobs will be moved offshore from the United States by 2007 as more complex tasks are outsourced.37 Whatever the actual number, it calls into question the emphasis on entry-level skills that are often the focus of small firms, registration boards, and accrediting agencies. With routine tasks (and jobs) already moving offshore, and large firms developing transnational, heterarchical organizations, it follows that our curricula should accommodate and foster leadership skills as well as the language skills and geographical and cultural knowledge base advocated by the United States National Research Council sixteen years ago.


1. National Research Council, Building For Tomorrow: Global Enterprise and the U.S. Construction Industry (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1988).

2. Ibid., p. 77.

3. Peter J. Taylor, World City Network: A Global Urban Analysis (New York: Routledge, 2004).

4. Paul L. Knox and Peter J. Taylor (eds.), World Cities in a World-System (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995); John Short and Y-H. Kim, Globalization and the City (London: Longman, 1999); Saskia Sassen, The Global City, 2nd edition (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2001); Peter Taylor, World City Network.

5. Peter J. Taylor, World City Network.

6. Peter Dicken, Global Shift: Reshaping the Global Economic Map in the 21st Century, 4th ed., (New York: Guilford, 2003); Lovelock, C. H., and Yip, G. "Developing global strategies for service businesses," California Management Review, 38, 1996, 64-86; Solvell, O. and Zander, I., "Organization of the dynamic multinational enterprise: The home-based and the heterarchical MNE", International Studies of Management and Organization, 25, 1995, 17-38; Bartmess, A., and Cerny, K., "Building competitive advantage through a global network of capabilities," California Management Review, 35, 78-103; Hitt, M. A., Tyler, B. B., Hardee, C., and Park, D., "Understanding strategic intent in the global marketplace," Academy of Management Executive, 9, 1995, 12-19.

7. Peter J. Taylor, World City Network.

8. Saskia Sassen, The Global City.

9. Peter J. Taylor, World City Network.
















25. Peter J. Taylor, Catalano, G. and Walker, D. R. F. "Measurement of the world city network," Urban Studies, 39 (13), 2002, pp. 2367-76.

26. Peter J. Taylor and Lang, R. E., "American cities in the world city network" Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution, 2003).

27. R. J. Rummel, 1970, Applied Factor Analysis, (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1970)

28. Peter J. Taylor, Catalano, G., and Walker D. R. F. "Multiple globalizations"; Peter Taylor World City Network.



31. Peter J. Taylor and Lang, R. E., "American cities in the world city network"

32. Peter J. Taylor, Catalano, G. and Walker, D. R. F., "Exploratory analysis of the world city network".

33. Ernest L. Boyer and Lee D. Mitgang, Building Community. A New Future for Architecture Education and Practice (Princeton, New Jersey: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 1996), p. 12.


35. Biannual meeting, Deans' conference, AIA Large Firm Roundtable, West Point, 2002.

36. Carolyn Lochhead, "Outsourcing: Fed chairman warns U.S. against 'protectionist cures," San Francisco Chronicle, 21 February 2004, p.1.

37. See R. Madigan, "Analysis and Commentary," Business Week, August 25, 2003, p. 30.

38. Peter J. Taylor, Catalano, G. and Walker, D. R. F., "Exploratory analysis of the world city network".


1. Creating an architectural practice values matrix

There are six steps to creating this matrix.

  1. Draw up an initial list of firms. Many of the firms providing architectural services to an international clientele also offer a variety of other services. These typically include engineering, planning, interior design, construction management, landscape architecture, and real estate consulting. As a first step in identifying architectural firms with global practices, we drew on the lists of firms published annually by Engineering News Record and World Architecture. This provided us with a total of 245 firms for investigation.
  2. Identify firms with global strategies. We define a global strategy as a network of offices on at least three continents. Using the web sites of firms, those not meeting this criterion were easily spotted and eliminated from further consideration. 177 such firms were discovered leaving a list of 68 firms with global practices.
  3. Identify global firms for which adequate information can be garnered. The web sites of firms vary notoriously in quality. We need to obtain enough information on a firm's office network to be able to assess the differences in importance of offices across all cities. Adequate information could be found for 35 firms, which between them had 846 offices in cities and towns across the world.
  4. Eliminate global firms that are predominantly engineering in focus. 14 firms are identified that offer few architectural or design services. This reduces the number of firms to 21 architectural and architectural-engineering practices.
  5. Create an initial data matrix. Architectural practice values are defined as the importance of a city's office to a firm's global strategy. Because every firm's web site provides different information on its city offices, standardization is necessary to enable comparisons to be made across firms. Thus architectural practice values are created by a simple coding operation. Taking each firm separately, city offices were evaluated and allocated scores ranging from 0 (no presence) to 5 (headquarters). Cities with ordinary or typical offices are allocated 2; minor offices are then identified and score 1; major offices score 3 or 4, the latter score reserved for cities whose offices have important regional-level functions. Albeit subjective, this method works well for providing large amounts of global-scale data relatively quickly and efficiently as previous work on service firms has shown: it provides a data matrix for describing and analyzing global strategies in the aggregate.38 In this case we produce an initial 21 firms x 846 cities architectural practice values matrix.
  6. Create an operational matrix. This first matrix is a very sparse one; that is to say, the matrix includes very many zeros. Large numbers of the smaller cities and towns have offices of just one or two firms and these places self-evidently do not contribute greatly to overall patterns of global strategy. Hence we need to reduce the number of cities we include for analysis. Summing the practice scores of the 21 firms for all cities, we use a cut-off point of 5 to eliminate cities inconsequential for global architectural practice. This leaves just 65 cities. The final matrix is, therefore, a 21 firms x 65 cities array of global architectural practice values. This total of 1365 practice values provides the input for aggregate description and analysis of the contemporary globalization of architectural practice.

2. Principal Components Analysis

Principal components are extracted from the data matrix in order of their importance as measured by the amount of total variance in the matrix that is accounted for by a component. The component loadings derived from principal components analysis relate each variable (i.e. each firm, in our case) to each component. These can be interpreted as correlations, so that a loading of 0.9 between a variable (firm) and a component would indicate that the variable (firm) is a very important contributor to the common variance that is the component. The component scores relate components to cases (cities). Effectively, these define the components as new, composite variables that show where a component is strong and where it is weak. They are produced as standardized scores centered on zero and typically ranging between +2 and -2. In the analysis reported here we make particular use of high scores to interpret components, using the term arena to describe the set of cities that score highest on a component.

Selecting the number of components to analyze is a key decision in any principal components analysis. The method we use here is to apply a varimax rotation to the initial results for different numbers of components. The purpose of a varimax rotation is to make the components particularly clear and distinctive (it produces loadings nearer either 1 or 0) and therefore easy to interpret. From the various results for different numbers of rotated components we have chosen a solution that is particularly clear-cut and provides an interesting and informative set of patterns. It is robust in the sense that it reappears even when extra components are included in the rotation - we call it the prime structure of the data.

Table 1: Cities with the Highest Architectural Practice Scores


Architectural Practice Score



















Table 2: The Two Major Arenas of Global Architectural Firms


Global City Arena


Austral-Asian Pacific Arena

Firm loadings

City scores

Firm loadings

City scores



HLW Int.




RTKL Associates


HOK Group


A Epstein &SII


Kajima Design




















Peddle Thorp


Woods Bagot




Bovis Lend Lease




CH2M Hill


Halcrow Group

















Firms with loadings above 0.3 are shown in order to identify the important actors (firms) that have created a given component. Cities with scores above 1.0 are shown in order to indicate the spatial configuration of each common strategy.

Table 3: The Two Minor Arenas of Global Architectural Firms


Middle Eastern Arena


US Domestic Arena

Firm loadings

City scores

Firm loadings

City scores

Dar Al-Handasah


Khatib & Alami


Kajima Design





















T.Y. Lin Int.


Ellerbe Becket























Firms with loadings above 0.3 are shown in order to identify the important actors (firms) that have created a given component. Cities with scores above 1.0 are shown in order to indicate the spatial configuration of each common strategy.

Figure 1: Global Architectural Practice Cities 

Figure 1

Edited and posted on the web on 12th January 2004; last update 16th April 2004

Note: This Research Bulletin has been published in Journal of Architectural Education, 58 (3), (2005), 23-32, under the title "Toward a Geography of the Globalization of Architecture Office Networks".