On June 19, U.S. firm Hillier Architecture finalized a merger with RMJM Group of Edinburgh, Scotland, creating a worldwide firm of 1,000 design professionals with more than $15 billion in construction value for buildings currently under design. The combined firm—which will continue to be known as RMJM Group worldwide but whose U.S. component will go by RMJM Hillier—is positioned to be among the top 10 largest global architecture firms.
The merger addresses today's marketplace, notes RMJM Group CEO Peter Morrison, who will remain chief executive. “Our clients in Asia and the Middle East are increasingly working in all different parts of the world,” he says. Previously, RMJM did not have an office in North America.
RMJM's experience in the commercial and educational sectors will combine with Hillier's portfolio of science and education projects. New projects are underway as a result of the merger, including a bid for a science park near RMJM's Edinburgh headquarters and an initiative in the Middle East for a large educational facility. Morrison says there will be absolutely no consolidation and adds that, in fact, the merger is “about expansion. I feel we will need more people because there is an abundance of projects.”
RMJM was founded by Robert Matthew and Stirrate Johnson-Marshall in 1956; it currently has about 700 people in 11 offices. The firm is divided into geographical groups: RMJM Europe, RMJM Asia, RMJM Middle East, and, now, RMJM Hillier in North America. Morrison and seven principals manage RMJM Group. Current projects include the Abu Dhabi Exhibition Center, the City of York Council Headquarters, and a recently completed laboratory complex at Chinese University, Hong Kong.
Founded in 1966, Hillier Architecture has grown to include about 300 design professionals in Princeton, N.J.; New York; Philadelphia; Washington, D.C.; and Shanghai, China. Thirteen principals manage the firm. Under the merger, RMJM's Fraser Morrison, Peter's father, will be the acting CEO of RMJM Hillier, and the principals will remain in their same positions. J. Robert Hillier, who was named Entrepreneur of the Year by Inc. in 1987, will become a deputy CEO of RMJM Group. Current Hillier projects include the East River Science Park in New York and the recently completed Virginia State Capitol renovation and expansion.
Peter Morrison says talk of the merger started about six months ago, when he was lecturing at Harvard and expressed an interest in expanding to New York: “This chap said, ‘Well, you've got to talk to Bob Hillier. Bob's considering where he might like to take his firm over the next few years,' and we got talking. … It kind of went right from day one.”