White’s establishment in Germany – from two to twelve employees in a year and a half

In 2021, in the middle of the pandemic, White Arkitekter opened a studio in Germany. With four ongoing projects and more in the pipeline, twelve colleagues in Stuttgart and a strong interest in Scandinavian architecture, the German venture has become a success story of international establishment. We interviewed Max Zinnecker, Partner at White and Marketing Manager for Germany, about the keys to successful business development and growth in one of Europe’s largest markets.

Max describes the establishment in Germany as an exciting journey, marked by cultural exchange and great ambitions. After a year and a half, the studio has grown from two to twelve colleagues. With skilled networking, local presence and knowledge of the culture, White was able to adapt their business to the new market as opportunities presented themselves. At the same time, he highlights the importance of learning from each other and not letting national borders impede the architecture.


Take responsibility and claim influence
Max Zinnecker has been part of the team business development in Germany together with Barbara Vogt since 2017. Despite the geographical proximity, being an architect in Sweden and in Germany is very different. The role and importance of the architect in projects is something he likes to reflect on. As an architect in Germany, you are responsible all the way from the first sketch and throughout the entire construction phase. It is of common interest to know which architect stands behind a proposal and architecture is reviewed in the culture section of newspapers just like music and literature.

As a generalist, the architect plays a central role in the entire planning and construction process, leading key decisions and being responsible – from design to cost control to construction management. Hence, the opportunity to take great influence, for example regarding sustainability strategies, the choice of construction materials or the design of the building.
Max Zinnecker, Architect and Partner at White and Marketing Manager for Germany
Part of our business plan for Germany is that we are very selective in terms of sustainability and quality. This is possible when you are new on the market, while you are expected to come up with innovative ideas that are different from the local culture. If the project does not prove to be up to our own standards, we discuss whether to stay in the project or not.
Max Zinnecker

Learning from each other – both in process and culture
Max also points out that, seen in the international context, Sweden has leading expertise in climate neutrality, wood construction and digitalisation – something that is of interest for German clients.

– White’s architecture philosophy and value-based approach are often appreciated by both clients and consultants. We inspire by being responsive, working inclusively and with a low prestige. At the same time, we dare to step it up for sustainability and climate neutrality and there is a great interest in our knowledge of digitalisation and wood architecture, says Max.

The Swedish construction industry is often driven by tried and tested solutions. Due to a great diversity of medium-sized enterprises (Mittelstand) that took the step into digitalisation, production in Germany as well as in Switzerland and Austria is still characterised strong by craftsmanship and specific solutions rather than standardisation. The exchange with the craftsmen is often just as inspiring as the collaboration with structural and building physics engineers.

High speed establishment in exciting times
Our network within the German market grew remarkably in the last few years – following the completion of several larger White projects that attracted architects, decision-makers and students from all over the world to Sweden. The new Karolinska University Hospital, sustainable urban developments like Hammarby Sjöstad, Stockholm Royal Seaport or the relocation of Kiruna and of course Sara Kulturhus have created curiosity abroad, and the German industry was no exception.

– We worked hard attending German events and real estate fairs like Expo Real, but even though there was a lot of interest in our firm from the beginning, it took a few years until the breakthrough. It simply required patience! But persistence paid off and today we can see that things have moved at high speed since then. The velocity and volatility of our ongoing development motivates me and keeps me going, says Max Zinnecker.

Targeting Berlin
With four projects in Germany and more in the pipeline, Max Zinnecker is excited about the future. A studio in Berlin, the cultural capital of northern Europe, seems quite possible in the future. Himself he feels a great sense of responsibility, but also joy and pride of the successful establishment in his home country.

– Now that the Stuttgart studio has been established and starting to take its own turns, it feels a bit like watching your child ride off to school by herself for the first time. I am very proud of my colleagues and the great step that White has dared to undertake – and of course that I was able to contribute to it. It is a huge commitment for the company, supported by both the partner group and the board, but we know that our knowledge and values are worth spreading and this is the proof that they are being well received, Max Zinnecker ends.

3 keys to a successful international establishment

  • Build long-term relationships, not only with existing and potential clients. Skilled partners are also essential to understand the local context. As a result, both can invite you into their own network, which of course matters both ways.
  • Be present. Physical presence builds trust and confidence with clients and partners, which is sometimes hard to achieve through digital channels. Local presence with experienced colleagues on site is essential to ensure quality and reliability.
  • Dare to invest. Setting high ambitions and high goals may seem scary, but it is necessary to challenge the market, yourself, and your company. Organised planning and follow-ups as well as good teamwork are key to success.

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