Practice makes perfect. Let’s be clear: Ranking architecture firms is equal parts art and science. We refine our methodology every year. But the goal of the Architect 50 remains the same: to reward accomplishment according to the broadest possible criteria.

The list is designed to celebrate practices of all kinds—practices that are as adept with building technology as they are in business, that can win design awards and also give back to their communities. Indeed, for the first time, this year we included pro bono work and water modeling in the survey. Given the impact that the economy, natural disasters, and drought are having around the country, how firms stack up in those categories seems especially relevant.

The overall winner? A big hand for DLR Group, which drew raves in 2011 for its Joplin Interim High School in tornado-ravaged Missouri.

Other firms that excelled: RBB Architects topped the business category; Westlake Reed Leskosky ranked first in sustainability; and perennial list-maker Skidmore, Owings & Merrill led the design/pro bono category. Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, meanwhile, was the biggest mover, finishing 5th after missing the top 50 last year. And Frank Harmon Architect showed that firms with only a handful of employees can compete with big multinationals.

We hope this year’s list will inspire energetic debates. Dig into the numbers. And don’t be afraid to tell us what you think.

2012 Architect 50
Key: Employees Scale: 1 = 1-10; 2 = 11-99; 3 = 100-499; 4 = 500-999; 5 = 1000-plus.
Gross Revenue Scale: 1= $999,999 or less; 2=$1 million-$9.9 million; 3= $10 million-$99.9 million;
4=$100 million-$999.9 million; 5=$1 billion plus.
Rank Firm Name Employees (see Key above) Gross Revenue (see Key above) Score Sustainability Rank Business Rank Design/
Pro Bono Rank
1 DLR Group
Omaha, Neb.
4 4 100 11 41 5
2 William Rawn Associates
Boston
2 3 99.98 4 4 81
3 HOK
St. Louis
5 4 99.21 25 25 4
4 Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects (ZGF)
Portland, Ore.
3 4 99.12 10 49 2
5 Pei Cobb Freed & Partners Architects
New York
2 3 96.22 13 20 21
6 Westlake Reed Leskosky
Cleveland
3 3 95.39 1 59 27
7 Skidmore Owings & Merrill
New York
5 4 93.13 62 16 1
8 Payette
Boston
3 4 92.61 6 24 41
9 SmithGroupJJR
Detroit
4 4 91.52 15 64 10
10 Cannon Design
Grand Island, N.Y.
5 4 90.93 30 42 8
11 HDR Architecture
Omaha, Neb.
5 4 90.92 46 23 9
12 Kaplan McLaughlin Diaz Architects (KMD)
San Francisco
3 3 90.29 22 5 94
13 Centerbrook Architects and Planners
Centerbrook, Conn.
2 3 89.8 43 19 14
14 Perkins+Will
Chicago
5 4 89.43 31 51 6
15 Pearce Brinkley Cease + Lee
Raleigh, N.C.
2 3 89.12 3 32 80
16 BNIM
Kansas City
2 3 87.45 8 118 3
17 Frank Harmon Architect
Raleigh, N.C.
1 1 87.34 7 103 12
18 HGA Architects and Engineers
Minneapolis
4 4 85.46 26 47 22
19 Mark Cavagnero Associates Architects
San Francisco
2 2 85.41 49 31 16
20 RNL
Denver
3 3 83.79 5 76 46
21 EYP Architecture & Engineering
Albany, N.Y.
3 3 83.15 20 67 25
22 EHDD
San Francisco
2 3 82.61 2 69 86
23 Eskew+Dumez+
Ripple

New Orleans
2 2 82.4 42 57 15
24 NBBJ
Seattle
4 4 82.27 61 11 33
25 Sasaki Associates
Watertown, Mass.
3 3 81.94 54 37 18
26 The Miller Hull Partnership
Seattle
2 3 81.4 9 89 34
27 AECOM
Los Angeles
5 4 80.97 63 50 7
28 Lord Aeck & Sargent
Atlanta
3 3 80.56 12 114 19
29 H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture
New York
2 2 80.48 34 28 55
30 RBB Architects
Los Angeles
2 3 79.88 117 1 74
31 LMN Architects
Seattle
2 3 79.56 21 79 28
32 Richärd+Bauer
Phoenix
2 2 79.14 19 87 30
33 Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects
San Francisco
2 2 78.6 24 85 31
34 Goettsch Partners
Chicago
2 3 77.55 68 6 98
35 Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture
Chicago
3 3 77.48 28 46 67
36 LPA
Irvine, Calif.
3 3 77.28 35 65 36
37 HKS Architects
Dallas
4 4 77.25 52 38 39
38 Ratcliff Architects
Emeryville, Calif.
2 3 76.79 37 63 43
39 Studios Architecture
Washington, D.C.
3 3 76.54 40 45 49
40 Little Diversified Architectural Consulting
Charlotte, N.C.
3 3 76.24 17 120 17
41 Ehrlich Architects
Culver City, Calif.
2 2 75.15 23 43 108
42 Good Fulton & Farrell
Dallas
2 3 74.94 89 8 54
43 Robert A.M. Stern Architects
New York
3 3 73.78 67 21 59
44 Ross Barney Architects
Chicago
2 2 73.31 27 111 26
45 Tsoi/Kobus & Associates
Cambridge, Mass.
2 3 73.14 47 35 77
46 FxFowle
New York
3 3 73.13 41 61 52
47 Architectural Resources Cambridge (ARC)
Cambridge, Mass.
2 3 73 16 74 97
48 Ann Beha Architects
Boston
2 2 72.91 72 36 42
49 PBK Architects
Houston
3 3 71.19 59 17 104
50 Clark Nexsen
Norfolk, Va. 
4 3 71.01 36 58 93


To read the rest of our 2012 ARCHITECT 50 coverage, click here.