Woods Bagot have hired Francesca Birks, a former foresights and design strategist for Arup, in a bid to futureproof the global architectural firm.
In a move that the practice hopes will give it a competitive edge, Birks moves into a newly created global insight leader role, tasked with coming up with scenarios of how the future might look by reading data, research and cultural signals, and actionable strategies to shape that future.
The move is an evolution in Woods Bagot’s ‘Practice of the Future’, which positions the firm and the role of an architect as continuously relevant in an unpredictable world. The investment into global insights also supports Woods Bagot’s desire to consistently innovate the sector.
Upon announcement of the hiring, Woods Bagot CEO Nik Karalis says the appointment is client focussed.
“There’s more to insights than simply expanding a client’s existing offerings to new regional markets. Understanding the context in which clients are operating and offering an informed vision of the future is critical in new market exploration.
“We’re redefining what architectural practice is about, casting our gaze into the future to figure out how to do things better. 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.”
Birks will identify and synchronise theories and design explorations from around the global studio and weaves them into research opportunities and thought leadership that help shape the future of design – sharing them generously to chart a better path forward. She likens her 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.
“When clients can express their desires confidently, a clearer and better design brief emerges, with key project priorities for programming and governance.”
Birks is competent in a range of roles, including design strategist, facilitator, planner and cultural producer, with decades of international experience. A people-centric leader, Birks believes in analyzing qualitative and quantitative data to help uncover preferred design futures, thus providing answers to tomorrow’s problems today.
To read an article penned by Birks titled 'Why we need global, collective intelligence', click here.