Mark Mitcheson-Low of Woods Bagot was recently appointed global developerment officer.
Mitcheson-Low has an expansive portfolio of major projects in all sectors across Australia, the Middle East, Asia and Europe.
Architecture and Design spoke to him about the proposed $1.85 billion World Trade Center in Perth’s central business district, defining architecture in Perth and working in Southeast Asia.
Woods Bagot is the architect for the proposed World Trade Center in Perth's CBD. How would a building like this transform the city's business district?
The design incorporates a major program of mixed use facilities over the rail reserve leading into Perth Central rail station. The buildings are designed to be clean, elegant and lasting in their appearance and position in the city to reflect a strong symbol of business and trade.
The WTC project has a huge impact on the city and the economy of the city and state. It is rare that a single project can act to stitch the city together, shift the centre of the city and create a new iconic development that becomes the new postcard for the city. Its social and economic impact will allow Perth’s business district to diversify and the city to become even more connected as an international city of influence and significance.
What has been your approach to the WTC project?
We have been working with the WTC Perth client for several years looking at potential sites which could be capable of accommodating the WTC program of requirements for a major WTC facility. As the Perth city grid has a finer grain than other cities with larger city blocks, this was a challenge. Woods Bagot assisted in identifying the current position as a potential site.
The design approach has been to create a strong link for the city across the existing rail lines that currently divide north and south city precincts. The development itself repositions the centre of the city and forms a new public plaza on the deck over the rail lines.
The development initiates a massive urban intervention and will be a transformational project shifting the future of the city development, while regenerating parts of the city that are currently difficult to access. The plaza will provide retail and entertainment and is inspired by the urban impact it will have on the city at ground level.
How would you define architecture in Perth at the moment?
As with most cities in Australia, the prominent architectural vernacular has been derived from the residential sector. A very competitive market, with commercial vacancy rates at an all-time high, the ability to expand architectural horizons has been limited to a restricted building typology. The adaptive re-use of heritage buildings and civic buildings such as the new Perth Library and the Western Australian Museum have offered potential new directions in architectural style.
The opportunity now is to bring a point of difference in the quality and a sense of international influence to the city as the market begins to change.
You've worked in several different regions around the world. What has been the most challenging country you've worked in?
I have worked in Australia, Europe, Southeast Asia and the Middle East where I was the regional executive chair for 10 years and based in Dubai for 13 years. I found that market exceptionally challenging and at the same time exciting.
Having arrived in Dubai in 1998/99 to deliver the Emirates Twin Towers with Nasa-Multiplex and Qatar Science and Technology Park in Doha, I saw the development of a major international city. Being involved in the building of a city from a desert was a pleasure.
Which country would you like to work in?
Southeast Asia is a region that we have not yet totally explored as a market, despite having large neighbouring studios and talent pools in Australia and China. Our global teams including our North America, Australia and China have all been involved in major projects in the region. My role includes establishing South East Asia as a new focus region for the global studio and growing the business through our Singapore and Kuala Lumpur studios.
We believe that development in the region will lead to more sophisticated and integrated cities with a greater emphasis on more usable places and spaces attuned to the way people want to live, work and play. Green cities with highly integrated technology and more seamless transportation connections are imperative to the success of our cities and economies.
Which project of yours are you most proud of?
While there are a number of major global projects that I have been a part of, some projects stand out. To name a couple, such projects include the Nakheel Tall Tower in Dubai which, at over 1.2km high, pioneered tall tower design and other technically complex low-rise buildings such as the Qatar Science and Technology Park. I see the World Trade Center Perth as the next iteration of one of those major projects to add to our portfolio of design excellence.
The most fulfilling project I have worked on is ongoing: for me it lies in the planning, design and growth of our global design studio over the past 20 years to become one of the largest and well-respected in the world.