2018 has been a truly phenomenal year for the James F Stephen Architects.

The Scottish-based family practice celebrated 40 years in business, completed one of the UK’s most iconic buildings of the year, V&A Dundee where they were Executive Architects and once again have collected a brace of awards recognising their national and international work across this anniversary year.

Perhaps the most significant and fitting tribute was in the autumn when the Practice collected the ‘Family Business of the Year’ (Angus) accolade at one of Scotland’s most prestigious business events, the Courier Business Awards.

Reflecting on 2018, Founding Partner Professor Fred Stephen said, “We are overwhelmed at what has been an amazing year for the Practice. I am extremely proud of the whole team and delighted that our family Practice continues to go from strength-to-strength.”

So what does 2019 have in store for this international Practice nestled in the countryside village of Glamis?

“It’s sometimes a challenge to think about the next 12 months when JFSA has achieved so much over the past forty years” said Fred, “however, the 41st year will be very much like the rest; moving forward and looking ahead; building on the experience gained, expanding their client base and professional expertise all in line with their philosophy of continual improvement.”

Technology is now playing an increasingly massive part in the business. From Fred Stephen sitting at home in 1977 with a pencil, paper and 2D plans to today’s computerised Building Information Modelling software, JFSA intends to continue to lead the way in architectural development and design.

Being a truly international business has driven the Practice to evolve its thinking in design, delivery and communication.

With the increasing need for vigilance Paul and David Stephen are tasked with developing this technological move forward for the Practice. The challenges of the future within an increasingly legislative environment with cloud computing; maintaining ISO standards; not to mention the recent GDPR; leading on to Cyber Essentials Plus; practising excellence in design and maintaining professional integrity are paramount.

You could think that following the success of the V&A Dundee project that what could possibly be next?

“JFSA is making great progress with up-coming projects” explained Fred, “some projects are underway for the RNLI across Scotland and for Scottish Autism, not forgetting to mention the repeat business from the various denominational bodies, Housing Associations and private client recommendations.”

Future plans include the submission of completed buildings for architectural awards in 2019 with the hope of being invited again to work with other signature architects to ensure JFSA and Scotland is kept on the national architectural landscape.

JFSA will continue to encourage staff to suggest ideas to increase business, look to acquire new clients by networking and word-of-mouth recommendations and continue to be a destination practice and ‘learning and development hub’ for future architectural talent.

While the Practice has employed in excess of 240 people throughout the years and produced over 120 Architects who now work worldwide, what about succession planning? Does Founding Partner Fred Stephen see JFSA remaining a family institution?

“With a second generation coming into their own in the business this is a given. From what we believe at the moment a third generation may yet blossom!” responded the proud father (and grandad).

One of the challenges faced by JFSA is perception of size and affordability. Some potential clients believe they are ‘too big’ for their private domestic requirements while others might perceive them as a small rural practice with less capability than a large city operation. However, given the depth and breadth of the JFSA professional experience coupled with Fred’s mantra of ‘don’t forget your roots’ this is most definitely not the case.

Looking forward, JFSA are undertaking a review of their brand while mindful to promote their past and recent successes.

The heart of their success is (and will continue to be) assisting clients transform their dreams into reality; maintaining a professional philosophy of continual improvement; while not forgetting their roots.