As if the summer heat isn't enough, the annual publication of Architectural Record Top 250 Firms list always makes people's blood shoot up to the boiling point. It's based on revenue reported to our sister publication, Engineering News-Record. We should probably call this the list of financially successful firms, because of course, that is really all the list measures.
I resisted publishing this list for years--the data has existed since 1966 (I saw the first list recently and if memory serves SOM was the top architecture firm with something like $6M in revenue) because to be sure dozens of excellent firms whose work we admire can never appear on the list. Architectural Record tries to recognize admirable firms by doing the best we can to connect you to the only thing that really matters: the work. Ultimately you look at it and you decide whether you like it or not.
Lists that go beyond that which can be measured objectively, are amusing, however, to the extent that they are subjective, they are unfair. Believe me, we've discussed doing them for years. So far, we've decided to stick with cold hard figures.
The firms on the AR Top 250 Firms list are industrious, most actually have paid their employees well in the previous economic climate, when there was a great deal of competition for skilled architects. And, yes we too are aware that some of these firms do work that is underwhelming, on the other hand, in the majority of cases, building the new unspectacular gym inside the high school serves the users better than putting bent titanium on the exterior. It is obvious that these are well-run businesses, they serve their clients well, and their work is reliable, even if not all of it is remarkable.