July 18, 2016

Design Dossier with Woods Bagot

An architecture firm that creates human-centered experiences

  • Woods Bagot preserves an historic Hawaii high rise

Woods Bagot proclaims itself a “People Architecture company.” “We place human experience at the center of our design process in order to deliver engaging, future-oriented projects that are underpinned by three main tenants: limitless curiosity, computational design based on the analysis of user behavior, and super typologies,” the firm says. As a global design and consulting studio with a team of more than 1,000 experts working across 17 studios in Australia, Asia, the Middle East, Europe and North America, the architectural firm is well suited for what it calls the on-coming “era of humanism.” The firm states, “The convergence of physical and digital communities is defining a new paradigm of user experiences. We bring it all together in a design process based around human experiences.”

Woods Bagot delivers, through an array of services, unique designs based on user experience. A data-driven design process, the firm says, “allows for projects to be continuously calibrated and studied, allowing Woods Bagot to provide an innovative architectural service.” The firm’s approach, it says, allows for a deep dive into human comfort and wellbeing. “Through a holistic analysis of environments, interior programs and material assembly, we simulate and optimize building performance to achieve dynamic experiential goals. Access is a critical spatial driver; Millennials seek open, innovative communities where knowledge is easily shared, the pace is rapid, and the creative process and the incubation of new ideas accelerated.”

We spoke with Tamara White, a principal in Woods Bagot’s San Francisco studio to learn a little more about the firm and her own perspective on design. Before relocating to San Francisco to lead the studio’s interior design practice, she spent eight years in the Sydney studio.

Woods Bagot

  • LAX Joint Business Lounge
    Los Angeles, California

    The Los Angeles Business Lounge for international airlines Qantas, Cathay Pacific and British Airways at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) has established a new standard in luxury travel with a setting inspired by California and the host airlines’ unique premium offerings. Located in LAX’s recently completed Tom Bradley International Terminal, the Business Lounge is a centerpiece of Qantas’ plans to quadruple its presence at the airport. The design takes advantage of a large central atrium where customers have a broad choice of amenities.

    Photos courtesy of Woods Bagot
    • Woods Bagot LAX lounge

    • The Los Angeles Business Lounge for international airlines

    • LAX Business lounge by Woods Bagot

  • Ward Village
    Honolulu, Hawaii

    On the island of Oahu, a new 61-acre, 22-tower residential masterplan is on display in a visionary sales centre situated on the sixth and seventh floor of the historic, Vladimir Ossipoff-designed IBM Building. Woods Bagot and landscape architects Surfacedesign Inc. combined their skills to reinterpret the Ossipoff spirit into a major transformation preserving the IBM Building’s distinctive concrete honeycomb brise-soleil and renews the surrounding landscape. At the ground level, the building is expanded to create more dynamic spaces and views. The project included a complete interior renovation of the Howard Hughes corporate offices on the second floor of the building.

    Photos courtesy of Woods Bagot
    • Howard Hughes corporate offices in IBM Building, Oahu

    • Woods Bagot renewal of the Ossipoff-built IBM building, Hawaii

  • The Stables at Royal Randwick
    Sydney, Australia

    Situated on Level 4 of the new grandstand building at Royal Randwick racecourse in Sydney, The Stables takes inspiration from the traditional 18th-century members-only private clubs. The space articulates strong references to the racecourse through large architectural gestures, such as operable stables rooms for private dining and raw materials such as antique brass, blackened steel, rough sawn, stained timber and comfortable leather upholstered furniture also reference horse stables and equipment, such as saddles and bridles. The design intention was to create distinct moments within four main spaces.

    Photos courtesy of Woods Bagot
    • Woods Bagot at Royal Randwick

    • Woods Bagot restaurant design

    • The Terrace at The Stables

  • Westfield
    Sydney, Australia

    Westfield’s relocation of their headquarters signaled a focus on the future, attracting the next generation while celebrating their heritage. The aim was to create a built environment that fosters collaboration, innovation from within, face-to-face communication and greater interaction across the entire business. Woods Bagot created a client arrival space that allows experience of the Westfield brand and culture with glimpses of the working office. Designed to initiate a cultural change, the new workspace creates an environment that encourages collaboration within and between teams by maximizing the use of space.

    Photos courtesy of Woods Bagot
    • Westfield Headquarters by Woods Bagot

    • Woods Bagot designed Westfield office

    • Open plan office space by Woods Bagot

Q&A Starts

Interview by Lacey Howard,  Senior Content Editor

Tamara White
Tamara White

Global Trends: Who in the field of architecture (or any field for that matter) inspires you and why?

Tamara White: I come back to Charles and Ray Eames over and over for inspiration. They sustained a continued exploration and study of creation and design. From objects to buildings, they covered incredible ground and made great design accessible to all. No one quite compares to these two.

GT: What is the first room or building you remember falling in love with?

TW: When I was very young I went on a trip with my father to the newly built Yulara Resort at Uluru, Australia. I was struck by the relationship between the buildings and the landscape that surrounded it. This was the first time I became aware of how a space could influence an experience and create a connection—in this case to the surrounding environment.

GT: Did this space or building influence your career choice?

TW: Absolutely. It also influenced my desire to experience different places and cultures and has led me to have lived and worked in three countries!

Woods Bagot Studio, Sydney, Australia
Woods Bagot Studio, Sydney, Australia

GT: Do you have a signature design element that you find yourself using time and again?

TW: I wouldn’t say that I have a signature visual element. Part of the great thing about each project is that you get to work with really different clients and respond to each of them individually, creating something new and unique.


"I believe that the best design outcomes are the result a highly collaborative approach." —Tamara White


GT: Tell me about your personal design philosophy.

TW: I believe that the best design outcomes are the result a highly collaborative approach, so my personal design philosophy really revolves around getting people together and working through design challenges as a team. It’s with this approach that we can really start to see our clients’ needs from a variety of perspectives. One person might add something that someone else would never have thought of. There is a great deal of value added with this approach, and I think it’s the best way to translate and realizes our clients’ vision into a great outcome.

Woods Bagot Studio, Sydney, Australia
Woods Bagot Studio, Sydney, Australia

These next 10 questions originally came from a French series, "Bouillon de Culture" hosted by Bernard Pivot. They are better known as the questions that James Lipton asks every guest at the end of "Inside the Actor's Studio.” We have tweaked them just a bit to be relevant to architecture.

GT: What is your favorite architectural word?

Cantilever and proportion

GT: What is your least favorite architectural word?

TW: That would be when we, as designers and architects, fall into “archi-speak,” using unnecessary jargon that overcomplicates what we are trying to communicate and befuddle our audience.

GT: What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally about architecture?

TW: I love traveling and experiencing different places through the architecture, people, culture, and history. There is an unbelievable amount of diversity in the world, and it’s incredible to see how this is expressed in different cultures and geographies. When you think about the amazing villages in Morocco and the palaces in St. Petersburg and the Taj Mahal in India, the differences are astounding, and inspirational.

GT: What turns you off?

TW: Harsh, non-welcoming, non-human edifices to an individual’s ego.


"I love traveling and experiencing different places through the architecture, people, culture, and history." —Tamara White


GT: What is your favorite curse word when on a project?

TW: Do you really want me to answer that? I’ll remind you I’m Australian.

GT: What sound or noise when a client visits a project do you love?

TW: It’s the excitement in their voice when the project is just completed, and they see the finsihed space for the first time.

GT: What sound or noise when a client visits a project do you hate?

TW: It’s a long awkward silence when you know that something is wrong.

Woods Bagot Studio, Sydney, Australia
Woods Bagot Studio, Sydney, Australia

GT: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

TW: If I wasn’t a designer, I would love to be a travel writer.

GT: What profession would you not like to do?

TW: I definitely couldn’t have a profession that was highly repetitive and mundane or anything that kept me at a desk 24/7.

GT: If Heaven exists, what style of room would you like God to escort you to when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

TW: It would be a Balinese pavilion, open, crafted, comfy and integrated with the landscape with vistas out to the ocean one way and the mountains the other.


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