Nomadic Warriors Staff International Practice

Event: Research and Design: Best Sustainable Practices Abroad: A Presentation by Woods Bagot
Location: Center for Architecture, 03.06.08
Speaker: Nik Karalis — Director, Woods Bagot
Organizer: AIANY International Committee

A roving team of “nomadic warriors” drives Australian-based design and planning firm Woods Bagot’s international practice. Largely staffing their projects from sites in four regions — Australia, Asia, Middle East, and Europe — the firm encourages employees to follow the “journey of the idea,” using local bases to move projects from start to finish. Teams are encouraged to study a place and immerse themselves in analysis of the locale before even picking up a pen to design. “We’re not seagull architects,” said Nik Karalis, director at Woods Bagot, referring to other designers who swoop in and out of different project locations, “we live and breathe the culture.”

This approach to work process results in projects that both respect the culture and improve the environment. In its master plan for the College of the North Atlantic in Dubai, regional Bedouin rugs inspired Woods Bagot when planning the many interior courtyards. Complex patterns of Islamic writing were used to design deep sun shading devices around the buildings’ perimeters.

The firm is moving from the concept of applied sustainability (applying points and pre-packaged solutions) towards site-based environmental considerations that influence design. For the Qatar Science and Technology Park, the firm designed an intricate exterior canopy that provided a sun-shaded veil over the buildings inspired by the site’s rolling topography. If done right, Karalis said, “globalization can signify a move away from monoculture.”