August 15, 2019
On August 8, 2019, Woods Bagot celebrated 150 years of practice at the St. Peter’s Cathedral in Adelaide, Australia. Over 80 guests – clients, dignitaries, and Woods Bagot Principals – gathered to celebrate the firm’s history in the first building designed by founders Edward John Woods and Walter Bagot.
Woods Bagot CEO Nik Karalis attributes the firm’s longevity to an enduring interest in moving the purpose of architecture forward.
“We’re not afraid of change,” he said. “We maintain a rigorous curiosity about advances in construction processes and the building industry, emerging technology, and always, how people actually use space, not how we think they use space.”
Woods Bagot was founded on the idea of designing for future growth related to both cities and people. This clear driver remains the firm’s foundation and has fueled expansion from one studio in Adelaide to 15 across the globe, covering more than nine sector typologies that create holistic buildings and precincts around the world.
“We are inclusive in our approach, we’ve celebrated diversity long before it was politically correct and, most importantly, we’re prepared to travel to the four corners of the globe to apply our expertise to our client’s visionary ambitions,” Karalis said.
One of the dramatic shifts in the built environment this century has been in shared space and the aggregation of communities. The work for architecture, Karalis says, is now a tangled and fascinating web of interconnections.
“Projects are more complex as a huge mix of uses and needs are brought together in cohesive developments. We call it sector blur, where boundary lines of uses are erased and replaced with connective tissue.”
Digital design, robotic fabrication, ecology, and new methods of assembly are the current disruptors in construction. Karalis predicts advances in digital construction and the relationships with contractors and clients will better align design with intent. In moving architecture forward, Woods Bagot continues to invest heavily in SUPERSPACE, its own research and technology group which is superseding the traditional area space analysis with experiential analysis.
“Through SUPERSPACE we see the world of possibility that exists in our ability to map and gather data across scales, whether it be for cities, economies, clients, buildings, or end-users. To create ‘user briefs’ we harness data and engage early in the process, asking people what they need to fulfill their human potential,” Karalis said.
Experiential analyses bring in the tactility and the emotional dimension of how people respond to space, volume, and light and darkness—which is what Karalis thinks the practice of architecture should be. He refutes the notion that technology and data mean a loss of human connection.
This milestone commemorates creating architecture across three centuries, and leadership anticipates these key technological and data-driven changes will take us even farther into the future.
“In the most recent years, we have bravely disconnected from our founders. This has liberated us to anticipate change and adjust with a dexterity that allows us to continually innovate and remain relevant into the next century,” Karalis said to the attendees.