Page\Park is an award-winning architectural practice undertaking work across the UK from our studio offices in Glasgow and Leeds. We are an Employee Owned Business reflecting our culture of sharing ownership and responsibility across all that we do.
As a practice we blend methodology (building) with thinking, dreaming and talking. There are two strands to this approach. Without discipline we wouldn’t get to build. Without thinking we wouldn’t be able to build well.
The practice has achieved a reputation for excellence over the last three decades, working across a range of sectors, including the fields of education, housing, arts & cultural projects, conservation, masterplanning, briefing and interior design, with particular skill working in sensitive historic settings and challenging contexts.
Our approach to all projects, and a core principle of our practice, is to work with clients through a collaborative process. Through this process we establish trusting relationships with those we work with.
How does an employee owned business operate and how is it different from conventional business models?
There are many and varied business models and ways of structuring an architectural practice, each with different ways of sharing the rewards of success. The practice was set up originally as a partnership, with four partner owners supported by colleagues employed by the business. It was a model appropriate for the old world of letters and ‘know your place’ protocols – but common to all was a sense that the older you were the more you could and should do.
That has changed. Digitalisation of processes and building procurement has separated out those who are enabled to produce the digital information. We should not underestimate this transformation. Leadership of old was more about a checking process to bring together all the different layers of information in all its different formats and to ensure these pieces of information were not incompatible or contradictory. The digital revolution and 3D modelling brings all that together with its clash detections and integrated scheduling. This is one small aspect of this change. It has enabled competency at a much earlier stage in a career.
Our choice of business model in anticipating the consequence of this change, suggests that a model for wider ownership and responsibility is an inevitable consequence. Experience has a crucial role to play of course, but this now takes the form of critical review, not the ‘hands on’ of the past. What emerges is a new enabled work team, all now recognised as needing to have exceptional skills in a differentiated flexible relationship as opposed to hierarchical structure. The employee owned model fits such a distributed platform.
How is such a model managed with all these voices?
The step from the old hierarchical model to our engaged and open structure has not been an overnight change. It has taken time to build a culture, supporting structure and business model that has at its core the idea of structured dialogue at all levels of the business. We accept, promote and acknowledge individual value, facilitated by a multi level discursive framework that brings together these individual talents in what we see as a series of notional ‘meeting tables’ arranged around key facets of the business.
These ‘tables’ address our management such as the Board, operational aspects such as logistics, specialist areas of activity as in ‘Arts and Culture’ or ‘Creative Workspace’ and technical issues for example, digital management systems, health and safety, quality management, to name but a few.
We take this management structure and apply it to all our projects, flexible and adaptable to ‘land’ in any project setting, so we can apply and manage our individual and collective skills within a clear and coherent model of shared collective responsibility and culture.
How are each of the voices heard?
At all times, what is being sought is the balance between individual expression and collective agreement. It is about a balance between individual development and complementary shared dialogue.
In a collective sense, each table of activity – management, operations or technical – has a chair and depute chair, representing the voice of that aspect of the business. Everybody, has the opportunity to contribute to that voice, and over time, act as the lead on that aspect.
How the individual with their own values and experiences finds a way to express their ideas and views is shaped by this process. The aim is that each individual finds the ‘best fit’ for their own voice, as a valued and essential part of the collective.
Who is ultimately responsible?
The business is run by a Board with individual chairs representing the critical management tables. In addition, there is an employee representative, voted on by a secret ballot. Much of the decision making is delegated to the management tables so whilst the Board has overall responsibility, key operational and technical direction is shaped at the working level of the practice. The Board can therefore be more strategic.
At a layer above this is the Employee Benefit Trust, which represents the collective individual ownership of the business by all employees. The membership of this Trust is made up of two employee representatives, voted for secretly by the employee membership, a representative of the Board (elected by the Board), and two former employee members to give a broader perspective. The role of the Trust is to oversee the business operations of the practice and ensure that the cultural values of the business are being upheld – all in accordance with the written articles of association.
So who is ultimately responsible? The Board has ultimate responsibility, but, within our shared ownership model, checked by the Trust, the reality is each individual bears a responsibility for their and others actions, supported within the management superstructure of the organisation.
Why is this a suitable modus operandi for an architectural practice?
Our architecture is influenced and shaped in relation to its individual and unique place and set of issues and circumstances. Each project setting, community and need is different. In response we can bring the variety of skills of everybody in the office to bear on each project. As a result, our projects are always different and shaped by each specific requirement.
This design stance is logically then reflected in the management structure, where everybody makes the organisation work, contributing towards the collective creative response.
What shapes your architectural output?
There is no doubt that how our society is structured and operates is becoming ever more complex. At its simplest level we are not only able to see how we carry things out, but are able at the touch of a button to compare and contrast how others do it around the world. Our ordering processes for materials are global and where in the past we were distant, and many times removed from what was happening elsewhere, we are now almost instantly engaged and informed. Whilst we might wish that regulation, procedure and process become simpler, the reality is that the collective experience at our fingertips will require more complex and intricate mechanisms to juggle all the constraints, challenges and opportunities.
In response to this ever increasing complexity, we have structured ourselves around multiple areas of expertise with mechanisms to deliver the highest levels of quality. As already described, we visualise these as ‘tables’ of expertise and interest. We categorise these broadly under the headings of ‘methodological’ and ‘typological’ tables. The ‘methodological’ consider the aspects of our design process that input to all projects we work on. These are;
- City and Land – about the context where we work
- Briefing and Interiors – about the activity we support.
- Heritage and Conservation – about the stories that make each place
The ‘typological’ tables consider sector specific project work;
- Creative Workspace – in all its forms in business, education and health
- Arts and Culture – in the variety of building types to serve the life of a community
- Places to Live – in the settings we create to reside
We call these our ‘Centres of Gravity’ or COGs