These are the 10 biggest architecture firms on the planet

Spoiler alert: lots of them have major work here in Canada.

Their projects are massive, their techniques are innovative and some of their roots go back more than a century. Building Design has released its annual list of the biggest architecture firms. The list is based on the number of fee-earning architects a firm employs.

We dug into the top ten to find out where they come from, what projects they are building and if they have any roots in Canada.

10. HKS

SoFi Stadium. – HKS

HKS is a global firm of architects, designers and advisors. They have 1,500 employees in 26 offices across the world. While they don’t have offices in Canada, they have a significant presence in the U.S. Their work on the LA Rams’ SoFi Stadium won first place in the 2022 World Architecture Festival’s Completed Buildings: Sports category. And Emory Musculoskeletal Institute (EMSK) was a finalist in the Completed Buildings: Health category. They are also working on an 80-story, 1,035-foot residential skyscraper planned for Austin, Texas.

9. DLR

Theatre of Ballet Symphony Orchestra and Opera. – DLR

This firm is 100% employee owned and their motto is simple: elevate the human experience through design. Founded in Nebraska, the company now has 30 offices from the Pacific to Atlantic coasts in the United States, and several international locations. Some of their recent work includes a new subway station in San Francisco. Last year the firm received American Architecture Awards for two international conceptual designs – the Theatre of Ballet Symphony Orchestra and Opera in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and the Culture and Sports Complex in Xiamen, China.

8. Heerim Architects & Planners

Qatar Al Thumama Stadium. – FIFA

Founded in 1970, this South Korean firm has 15 branch offices and more than 1,400 employees. Their offices span the globe in countries like Cambodia, Qatar, Vietnam, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia. Last year their work on Incheon International Airport Passenger Terminal 2 won them an International Architecture Award. They also won a Prix Versailles award for work on Qatar Al Thumama Stadium.

7. HAEAHN Architecture

Namyangju Wangsuk S-20BL. – HAEAHN Architecture

Also a Korean firm, HAEAHN was established in 1990. It has since grown to more than 1,300 employees. Some of its award-winning projects include Namyangju Wangsuk S-20BL, Pohang International Exhibition & Convention Center and the Jang-Ju Art Centre.

6. Perkins Eastman

SkyTrain Expo Line Modernizations. – Perkins Eastman

While this international firm is headquartered in New York City, they still dip their toe across the border into Canada. Some of this includes the Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, modernizations for Vancouver’s SkyTrain system and Trillium Health Centre in Mississauga. The firm has 24 studios across the globe in cities like Vancouver, Toronto, Austin, Shanghai, Dubai, Los Angeles and Chicago.


Réseau Express Métropolitain. – REM

AECOM launched as an independent company formed by the merger of five entities. While its official founding was in 1990, many of its predecessor firms had distinguished histories dating back more than 120 years. Since then, more than 50 companies have joined and, in 2007, it became a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange. Their impact in Canada has been vast. Their resume includes Réseau Express Métropolitain in Quebec, Toronto York Spadina Subway Extension in Ontario and a massive terminal expansion at the Calgary International Airport. 

4. Sweco

Aarhus Stadium. – Sweco

This European firm was founded in 1958 and swears by the Sweco model. The model is based on four cornerstones: client focus, the best employees, internal efficiency and a decentralized organization. Sweco operates in eight business areas representing 13 countries in Northern Europe. Recently, they have been doing work on the UK’s largest Antarctic science research hub, a net-zero office building redevelopment near London Bridge and the new Aarhus stadium in Denmark.

3. Nikken Sekkei

Kumamoto Railway Station Building. – Nikken Sekkei

Just last year, a Nikken joint venture was selected as the winner of China’s largest transportation hub architectural competition. They also saw their Kumamoto Railway Station Building win International Living Future Institute’s 2022 Biophilic Design Award. But their history goes deep. They have compiled a detailed history of their work that goes back to their founding in Japan in 1900.

2. HDR

Ontario Line Subway – HDR

HDR specializes in engineering, architecture, environmental and construction services with more than 200 offices in 13 countries. Their site stats that they are most well-known for adding beauty and structure to communities through high-performance buildings and smart infrastructure. It’s hard to pick which Canadian projects to highlight from HDR because their list of work here is extensive. They are advising on the Ontario Line Subway, did work for the long-awaited McLoughlin Point Wastewater Treatment Plant and were involved with the award-winning John Deutsch University Centre.

1. Gensler

Central Park House. – Gensler

With 2,692 architects on staff and more than $1 billion in fee income, Gensler easily soared to the top of Building Design’s list. They also topped it in 2021. In Canada, they are leading the push to convert vacant office buildings into housing. They are identifying these projects using a data crunching tool that helps identify prime candidates for conversion. They also have digital tools to enhance their design process. The Gensler team has done work on the striking Central Park House in Metro Vancouver, BMO Field in Toronto and the GE Innovation Centre in Calgary.


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