Economic optimism attracts international architecture practice
Gavin Kain.
 
Woods Bagot, recently ranked 6th in Building Design’s (BD) annual World Architecture 100 list for 2016, is setting up a global design studio in Auckland and intends to hire local talent. 
Woods Bagot Design Leader and Studio Chair Gavin Kain said there are fundamental reasons for establishing a permanent presence in New Zealand. 
“New Zealand is an innovative, creative and forward-looking country. It has a strong economy and a high-degree of self-confidence. 
“This fits well with Woods Bagot’s philosophy which is to design spaces and workplaces which meet the current and future needs of the people who work, live, or visit a destination for multiple reasons, and which are environmentally sensitive and culturally appropriate. 
Kain said servicing the high profile projects Woods Bagot is currently undertaking in New Zealand was also a major factor. 
“Due the quality and scale of existing work that we are doing it is also important to have a stronger local presence with people on-the-ground that can manage the end-to-end business process.”
“The design values, quality and scale of work we are currently undertaking for New Zealand projects has helped cement our view that this is a place we want to have a permanent presence,’ said Kain. 
For the past four years Woods Bagot has been on-the-ground in New Zealand partnering with local architects on a number of high-profile projects.
This includes one of the country’s largest civic project’s the New Zealand International Convention Centre (NZICC), for SKYCITY, in conjunction with local architects Warren and Mahoney and Moller Architects.
The practice has also been an active driver in the largest current commercial project in New Zealand - the Downtown Auckland development, also delivered in partnership with Warren and Mahoney.
“It’s an iconic and historic Auckland location. The new design maximises the harbour views, incorporates natural materials such as stone, focuses on light and space and has a feature ceiling design which is a contemporary expression of the Maori tuku tuku woven pattern,”  said Kain. 
While the architecture incorporates quintessential New Zealand elements based on local perspectives and input from Warren and Mahoney, it’s an example of how local design principles integrate with Woods Bagot’s global practice.
 
To make sure it is at the forefront of innovation, Woods Bagot annually invests two percent of its global revenues into research. 
“This ensures we are always ahead of innovation and new learnings can be applied regionally, as appropriate,” said Kain.
For example the Downtown Auckland development draws on innovative design principles applied to the Woods Bagot inspired 1200 Van Ness Avenue development in San Francisco. The mixed-use development (office, residential and retail) maximises the experiences of the three different user groups as well as focusing on sustainability principles, with a high level of solar control. 
“It’s first and foremost about the people who work, or live in, or visit a commercial building or public space. If it works for them, then it inherently works for the building owner, whether they are in the private, public or commercial sector,” said Kain. 
He will relocate to Auckland in January to lead the studio with Studio Leader Troy Thomas, an experienced architect who has been with Woods Bagot for over 13 years.
“Our Auckland studio will reflect the diversity of the city, with locally trained professionals working closely with staff from all across the world to continually deliver high-calibre projects. The intent is for the studio to grow to become comparable with our other studios across the globe,” he said. 
He said having a mix of local and international staff on-the-ground to manage the end-to-end process will bring two-way benefits.
“As we recruit people locally, there will be the opportunity for New Zealand designers to feed into the global design practice which is very collaborative. It also means that they will have access to the learnings and experience of our global design studio.”
“While our footprint is not necessarily unique, it’s our ability to work as one global studio that sets us apart from our competitors,” he said.
New Zealand’s economic optimism and growth in specific sectors, such as education, provide a positive outlook, said Kain.
“With Auckland growing significantly and with a big  push coming from the education sector as many New Zealand universities undertake major projects to actively promote and attract international students, it’s a perfect time for Woods Bagot to expand its design footprint,” he said.