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Making a mark on society with innovative architecture

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“Clients today don’t want an architect just to make a drawing,” points out Partner and Director of Business Development Martin Rangfast. “They want us to be an advisor who is part of their business plan from an early stage, who essentially supports their development. We try to help companies, municipalities and governments to develop; we try to understand them and be a part of what they are trying to create. We believe that we can really make a difference when we are part of the process. We can show them new ways of improving their business, using our knowledge of new technologies and digital solutions.”

Founded in  1906, Tengbom is not only among the oldest architectural practices in the world, with its 600 staff it is also the 30th largest, and one of the most flexible. Its eleven offices in Sweden and one in Finland are supplemented by pop-up branches.

“It is hard to find new employees who are both skilled and passionate,” continues Mr. Rangfast. “Therefore, when we find an ideal employee who prefers to remain in his home town, we create a popup. Right now we have two. This strategy also means we can follow our clients. I can envisage having pop-ups in the USA and other countries in the future.”

Tengbom is a full-service architectural practice, offering a very broad spectrum of competences, from urban planning and landscaping to interior design, sustainability and accessibility. The firm has a strong track record in a wide range of sectors including industry, hotels and restaurants, retail, healthcare, education and residential.

“We can offer any client, wherever they are, a full service,” says Mr. Rangfast. “Of course, we always like to provide the full package, but we can also offer solutions in individual disciplines where required. The latter is very much about co-working. It is important to collaborate with other specialists, and new technologies make this very easy.”

Tengbom is, nevertheless, the natural go-to firm for a number of disciplines. It is the largest provider of interior design services to all segments in Sweden, from hotels and hospitality to offices, banks and international companies, in particular those looking to establish a presence in Sweden.

The combination of Tengbom’s strong history and its focus on innovation and creativity have played a significant role in the firm’s success. Mr. Rangfast believes the firm differentiates itself in a number of different ways. “Curiosity and passion drives our business,” he explains. “We always aim to offer solutions which will meet not only the needs of today, but the future, too. We look at how the workspace is likely to develop, for example. We advise our clients and try to capture a deep understanding of their business. Our goal is always to provide the most holistic economic solution for the client. We extend that holistic approach to our design; buildings must be part of their surroundings. Another aspect where we are, perhaps, a little different is that we see our competitors as colleagues; sometimes we work together on projects. We have very broad experience and we like to develop new, young talent. Ultimately, we are proud entrepreneurs; we love to create projects and be a part of our clients’ success.”

Digitalization and environmental issues have changed the architectural sector quite significantly in recent years. “In this industry, digital transformation focuses on virtual and augmented reality; we try to be a front-runner in those services,” underlines the Director of Business Development.

Globalization has also had a huge impact on the architectural sector, and Tengbom has developed a solid international strategy, securing a number of interesting projects around the world, including Italy, the USA, and China where it won a competition to design a new hospital.

“It seems very important today to be a large player in the sector. This means you are able to carry out large projects and really make an impact on society,” continues Mr. Rangfast. The Partner and Director joined Tengbom in 1992. “My role is to secure new clients and develop new projects. We have a very strong history, and the fact that we are still in the business after all this time attracts a lot of clients. I also focus on developing the firm by identifying new business opportunities and creating new services.”

How does Mr. Rangfast see the future of the architectural world in general and Tengbom in particular? “I believe that architecture will become more global,” he says. “We are already seeing this, not just through international projects, but also through the diversity of our employees. We have between 25 and 30 different languages within the company, and I think this will increase. It is incredible to think that we have one of the 30 biggest architectural firms in the world right here in Sweden, and I am sure that more foreign architects will be keen to join us.”

Innovation and creativity will continue to underpin Tengbom’s service. In 2016, the firm was named by Fast Company as one of the four most innovative architectural businesses in the world. “As far as our own development is concerned, we see huge potential in the life sciences, education, infrastructure and healthcare sectors,” says Mr. Rangfast. “We have considerable experience in these segments; they are relatively complex, so we don’t have too many competitors. I believe this is where we can really be a partner to our clients. The residential sector is also growing, but the competition there is much more intense.”

Tengbom will continue its focus on people, and meeting the needs of future societies. In 2016, it launched its ArchTech & Future studio as a hub for innovation, with a team which specializes in investigating new perspectives and working methods within the digital landscape, underpinned by continued focus on the firm’s core pillars of processes, architecture and people.

“You have to be much more than an architect today,” sums up Mr. Rangfast. “We have to understand the changes in our society. What made me want to work for Tengbom was its reputation as one of the oldest companies in the industry. What keeps me here, and keeps me motivated, is the fact that Tengbom has always been a pioneer in this business. The firm aims to provide the best service within the sector, in all business segments and all architectural disciplines.”

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