In a move that further redefines the contemporary practice of architecture, Woods Bagot has created an insights role as part of its investment to position the firm with a competitive edge. Announcing the appointment of Francesca Birks to lead a new insights team, CEO Nik Karalis said the intent is to "help our clients understand the greater forces at play."
"There's more to insights than simply expanding a client's existing offerings to new regional markets," Karalis added. "Understanding the context in which clients are operating and offering an informed vision of the future is critical in new market exploration."
Woods Bagot hired Birks from engineering giant Arup, where she headed up Foresights and Design Strategy US, to govern a clearer understanding within the business of what will impact its work and service offer.
As a futurist, Birks' role is not to predict the future but to come up with scenarios of how the future might look by reading data, research and cultural signals, and actionable strategies to shape that future. She likens the work to that of an archaeologist digging through dirt and rubble to uncover a fossil: "We examine a variety of sources - ethnographic, spatial analysis data, industry research, interviews with experts."
In her excavation Birks endeavors to find cultural alignment between client ambitions and the design process, the firm undertakes to realize those ambitions through strategic design. Insights are the thinking partner, she says, giving clients a language for what they'd like to see happen which leads to better design and project outcomes.
"When clients can express their desires confidently, a clearer and better design brief emerges, with key project priorities for programming and governance," said Birks.
The creation of the insights role is an evolution in Woods Bagot's 'Practice of the Future' which positions the firm and the role of the architect as continuously relevant in an unpredictable world.
"We're redefining what architectural practice is about, casting our gaze into the future to figure out how to do things better," explained Karalis. "By understanding market shifts and changes, and defining this value, we intend to win the work we want through differentiated positioning, stronger vision and brand strategies, and compelling value propositions."
Photo: Courtesy of Woods Bagot