Woods Bagot: 150 years of extraordinary buildings
Creating spaces people will want to use is what Woods Bagot does best.
Woods Bagot is dedicated not only to designing game-changing projects, but also to moving forward the practice of architecture using AI, algorithmic design and spatial analysis. In harnessing the tools of the digital age and investing heavily in research and technology, the firm says it’s departing from its roots to leave behind a legacy of enhanced social sustainability and liveability on a global scale.
“We’re not afraid of change,” said Woods Bagot CEO Nik Karalis at the firm’s 150-year celebration in August. “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.”
The company’s global team of 850 experts – in 15 studios around the world – are applying this approach to projects as diverse as transport infrastructure (airport terminals and lounges, and train stations), healthcare facilities, hotels and civic centres, universities, retail centres, workplaces and homes.
Let’s take a look at some of Woods Bagot’s recent and upcoming projects in Australia.
Melbourne Business School, Carlton
Students will be treated to some of the most advanced learning environments in the country when the Melbourne Business School’s stunning new building opens its doors in a few years’ time. The Woods Bagot team took inspiration from the surrounding suburb’s rich history and character to come up with the bold 12-storey design.
“It’s a design that celebrates both the local area and the energy within the school,” says Woods Bagot design leader Bruno Mendes.
The project is in the planning stages but, all going well, the stacked layers of glass and brick – interspersed with lush greenery inside and out – will soon become the business school’s proud new address. The six-star Green Star-rated building will provide staff and students with flexible spaces for teaching, research and coming together to socialise and share ideas.
St Brigid Health Sciences Building, Australian Catholic University, Ballarat
Woods Bagot is known for finely orchestrating a structure’s design to reflect both the client and the way the building will be used, and the firm does this very well in the new health sciences teaching facility at ACU’s Ballarat campus.
The exterior comprises dark grey bricks punctuating an expanse of strategically placed Pacific Blue and Baxter Blue glazed bricks from the Austral Bricks Burlesque range. Bricks were chosen for the façade to reflect and reinterpret the traditional red-brick heritage buildings on campus.
As well as serving as a physiotherapy teaching facility, the building acts as a gateway to the western side of the campus. With this in mind, a series of bricks was hand-cut and projected 30mm from the façade in the shape of ACU’s crest, before being edged in brass. The crest casts a shadow that shifts with the sun.
The mass of solid brick walls creates the visual privacy required for teaching, while glass and metal used elsewhere open to the outdoors the more informal gathering and circulation spaces.
Apartments at 537 Elizabeth Street, Surry Hills
Space constraints always present design challenges, but the inner-city microsite on which this Sydney apartment block was constructed required some seriously creative thinking. The 7-by-30-metre sloping site needed to accommodate 12 sophisticated apartments while also contributing to the urban renewal of Surry Hills.
In each one-bedroom-plus-study apartment, the integrated sleek joinery maximises the available space. In the media/study space, timber panels conceal a fold-out wall bed for guests, laundry or storage, while a built-in desk and shelving makes the most of every centimetre.
Staggered windows and balconies extend and shade living areas during the warmer months and give residents visual and acoustic privacy, while a communal rooftop garden is a lifestyle-enhancing outdoor area in which to gather. Woods Bagot specified that the building’s concrete exterior should have textural timber imprints to provide a sense of scale on the exposed site.
The building has been shortlisted in the 2019 World Architecture Festival Awards.
St Andrews Beach Villa, Mornington Peninsula
A holiday shack perched on the sand dunes of Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula has evolved into an impressive five-bedroom villa with the help of Woods Bagot CEO Nik Karalis, who owns the property.
But the project isn’t over yet. Nik, who fell in love with architecture and interior design while working as a house painter to fund his physics and chemistry studies, says the villa is an ongoing design experiment that will continue to respond to its site over time. Intense winds, salt spray and shifting sands all come into play on the exposed site. “It could go on for a whole lifetime and into the next generation,” admits Nik. “Design never rests.”
In the meantime, the villa has been shortlisted in the 2019 World Architecture Festival Awards. The Karalis family’s holiday home has a pool, cabana, glasshouse and 25-metre-wide deck, and features a mix of weathered and new materials. The main living spaces are enclosed in a raised steel box overlooking the sea.