Implementing People Architecture

A manifesto or credo without a methodology is only propaganda.

If there was ever a time to consider a quantum shift in the direction of the practice of design and architecture, the events of 2020 signify that there is a real social momentum for change.

Talk to Domenic Alvaro about Implementing People Architecture

We declared ‘People Architecture’ as our vision in 2015 placing human experience at the center of every design decision we make. While it may seem opportunistic for others to also unite around this cause, the more advocates we have for change the better the outcome for everyone.

Diversity of design authorship is at our core. This conviction is a deliberate movement away from a singular founder towards the plurality of a foundation-based firm. Our global studio ensures we have meaningful representation of diversity across ethnicity and gender. It also allows us to resonate with, have deep knowledge of  and engage with local communities and cities within our  six regions of operation.  As a result, our portfolio of work is deliberately varied, each with its regional nuance and context.

This is a deliberate design strategy and one which allows real innovation to occur. Innovation does not happen at the extremities of commodity or elite brands, we espouse that innovation occurs in the middle territory – where we can reshape the experience of multiple users.

At any moment, we may be working on a variety of projects – from a competition for a new Islamic Capital City in the Middle East, to a library for girls in the United Kingdom, an affordable and adaptable apartment building in Australia, a tech company headquarters in the United States or a new medical precinct in China.

Also, on the global studio agenda are projects in collaboration which further enriches the variety of work.

Together with Diller Scofidio +Renfro we are imagining a contemporary indigenous gallery in South Australia which includes local Kaurna indigenous community input. The virtual and physical network of our Global Studio model allows us fluidly to move across these project types  with variety and meaningful empathy without resorting to a singular repertoire  of solutions or makings assumptions from afar. The common practice is to have an international brand architect to work with a local delivery architect implementing the work remotely. We offer an alternative which is more engaging and connected directly with the city in which the project is built. Whilst still providing global insight and expertise.

To be a truly Global Studio a degree of scale is required in order to maintain the coverage and network connectivity. The current perception that scale and quality are exclusive is another shift in values that determines what is the practice of the future should be. Both minority and majority cultures can be unified under our Global Studio model, especially as technology has liberated all these previous conceptions. We can all participate in the quality design process irrespective of location and scale.

Our CREDO requires a mechanism of inclusive implementation if it is to deliver the change it attests. As we shift  away from singularity towards diversity a process or methodology  is required that is structured for all  those who operate within it and provides scope for continual innovation.

Complementing our CREDO is our GUIDE that contains the DNA of the Practice of the Future. Every designer within Woods Bagot  follows a simple three step methodology  and  six criteria through which every project will be inspired by engaging with clients, communities and creatives.

The new headquarters for IRENA at Masdar is delivering a carbon neutral alternative for a new series of  master planned buildings based on wind catchers and shaded pedestrian movement. This is led by our Global Impact group that uses our internal evaluation wellness assessment tool to deliver these real outcomes. At the same time these ideas and methodologies need to be articulated in a simple coherent story for users of space to comprehend and embrace as convincing narrative.

The language of architecture for a long time has been exclusive to itself.

It must stand up to the test of  interrogation by a new social media audience and be able to adapt and accept external collaborations and input. Every Woods Bagot project has a thread of a critical narrative running through the entire  creative journey including the making and crafting of the building.

At any moment we may have more than 3 studios, including the host studio plus our global sector leaders working on a specific project  all collaborating  concurrently. The current Hong Kong University competition has our Sydney, Melbourne and Hong Kong studios together with other partners to deliver the outcome . We have proven  to our clients time and again that this is possible where the results are always better than if delivered by a single entity.

Shifting the culture of a global architectural practice to have impact across the world, to have the dexterity between local context and the freedom to explore global innovation, is a mammoth endeavour. As we remain positive about the world and its resilience to adapt in times of crisis architects are at a fulcrum of change, either assuming responsibility and awareness for communities across the globe or continuing on a path of formality and singularity. We sit at the centre of cultural curation and the orchestration of places and place making  and can indeed influence change. We believe with People Architecture is driven by the belief the values and ethics of design can be one and the same.

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