Chris Brown is an Associate-Director with Brewer Smith Brewer Group (BSBG), and he continues to play an integral role in the international expansion plans the group initiated in 2016 with a first overseas office in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. London was quick to follow, and since the establishment of this office in 2017, Chris has been joined by BSBG Partner Nick Turbott in supporting operations in the UK’s capital.
“The role I play in London is similar to the work I have been doing in Vietnam,” Chris explains. “I’m here to assist the partners and the London team with the operations of the office and the current hospitality projects with London + Regional Hotels (L+R Hotels).”
The two L+R Hotels projects, both refurbishments of existing hotels (Green Park and Nobu London Portman Square, respectively), were secured shortly after the London office opened. These prestigious hotel developments are similarly complex and require the high-end technical expertise that BSBG is renowned for in Dubai, and has now introduced in London.Discovering high quality, talented staff capable of replicating the Dubai standards in London is one of the key ongoing responsibilities Chris takes the lead on. “As with all new offices, it takes time to get everyone functioning in line with the rest of the group,” Chris says. “But we have the systems in place to ensure we continue with our successful start here in the UK. We’re very selective in our recruitment and go through a stringent interviewing process to ensure we bring in those with the top level skillsets, a first-class attitude and the tenacity we know we require in the successful design and delivery of architecture that can really set the bar.”
Once the operation was established in Asia, Europe was always the next destination on the radar for Managing Partner Alistair McMillan and the senior management team. The uncertain shadow cast by Brexit means the UK perhaps wouldn’t be the automatic number one choice for an overseas business looking to gain a new footing in Europe. However, as Chris explains, the aspiration for BSBG focuses more on the specific needs of the London market, both in its current guise and further down the line. The London Plan suggests that large scale regeneration will continue, with a real focus on improving the quality of life for all Londoners. Wellbeing and integration are at the heart of the approach to development for the boroughs, and thus also for developers, who must now plan projects aligned with delivering ‘people architecture’ and ‘good growth’ – and delivering it efficiently, effectively, with sustainability at its very core.
“We believe we’re bringing something new and of high quality to the London market”
“We believe we bring something new into this market,” Chris says. “It comes in the form of our lead consultancy expertise. We’ve been working in BIM for the last decade, and we have made our name from our unique ability to create collaborative and hugely efficient project cycles. Our BIM and software expertise, the level of project understanding we bring, and the workflows we have in place will be of huge importance to clients in London, ensuring a first-rate, value-driven product that exceeds the expectations set out by stakeholders. This is what we do in Dubai, and it’s what we’re doing in London now. Of course, we do have competitors, but there is a gap in the market for the services we provide, and this is where our current focus remains.”
As for focus on sectors, residential, commercial and hospitality are unquestionably the market focal points at this time in London, but Chris is keen to stress the group has a portfolio that displays strength not only in every discipline, but in every sector too. “We have strong commercial, hospitality and residential experience, and this is perfectly aligned with the market here in London currently. But we have a wealth of experience and an enviable portfolio that encompasses all sectors. We do envisage the office will work predominantly on mixed use, hospitality, residential and commercial projects, however it is likely there might be both retail and education projects on the horizon. We will not target specific sectors, but rather remain focused on continuing to provide best in class executive architecture which incorporates high-end architectural design and delivery, as well as interior design, with our lead consultancy overlay and Revit expertise.”
BSBG has a number of openings for talented London architects, architectural technologists and interior designers. The two existing projects will very shortly be joined by others which are in the formative stages, and thus the speed of growth in the London office has the potential to surpass that in Vietnam (which is almost at full capacity three years after establishment). Chris continues: “Our clear ambition is to try to fill this office with the best talent, in a very short timeframe. In the next 12 months there will be up to 30 employees working here. The office will operate in an integrated fashion with both Dubai and Ho Chi Minh City. Our business model enables us to leverage the talent of the broader group based on our collaborative experience and capabilities.”
Chris is involved with most of the interviews conducted with candidates across each of the three continents in which BSBG has a presence, and when asked why a candidate should choose to join BSBG in London, his answer is emphatic. “The common factor for anyone deciding to join BSBG has to be that we are hugely ambitious, we’re fiercely loyal and committed to our people, and we provide genuine opportunities for personal growth and development, as well as career progression. When you put those components alongside the fact that we are constantly involved in some of the world’s most exciting and challenging projects, I think you have a very clear answer as to why so many talented architects are choosing to join us at BSBG.”