Woods Bagot has appointed Rhonda Mitchell and Jason Fraser as Australian principals.
“Jason and Rhonda instigate fresh ideas and drive the rigorous curiosity Woods Bagot’s global studio is known for,” says Frear.
“Both set the bar high – investing in our people with the same enthusiasm they invest in our business. We celebrate their appointments with great pride,” says principal and regional executive chair (Australia and New Zealand) Kate Frear.
Mitchell and Fraser found architecture in different ways. After graduating with a fine arts degree, Sydney-based Fraser found himself at odds with the insular and oft-exclusive art world and sought a way out into a more connected, equally creative profession – arriving on the doorstep of the University of Technology Sydney not long after.
“Architecture is fundamentally social. Regardless of scale or form, it interacts with people – so must be unpretentious and logical in order to make a positive impact. That’s an architect’s responsibility,” says Fraser.
With nearly two decades of industry experience, Fraser has developed a diverse portfolio. From mixed-use towers to urban masterplans to interventions that work at a 1:1 scale, his approach strives for an “architectural intelligence” – beginning with user experience and looking through urban, social, culture and environmental lenses, to embed real value through well-crafted architecture.
“What’s most important is a beautiful idea – something intelligent and rational that places substance ahead of style,” says Fraser.
Mitchell, who is based in Woods Bagot’s Melbourne studio, credits her arrival to the profession to the pursuit of a vocation where creative thinking can foster change – increasing the value of places and impacting people.
“I was drawn to architecture because it’s a profession that takes notice – paying close attention to what’s good, what isn’t, and what needs to come next,” said Mitchell.
Mitchell is especially attracted to projects that give back to their communities. Be it an inner-city performance space, a regional library or a bustling retail centre, spaces that use design to enrich meaning and make a public contribute are what makes a project stand out for Mitchell.
“The measure of a project’s success is the enjoyment of those using it. Whatever the location, budget or typology, what’s important is that a space is engaging, a little bit surprising and designed to best fit its context and people,” says Mitchell.
Mitchell points to Collins Arch, the project redeveloping an entire city block in central Melbourne that she leads for Woods Bagot in collaboration with New York-based firm SHoP Architects.
“We’ve worked hard to ensure that Collins Arch positively impacts as many people as it can. By prioritising the ground plane, we’ve been able to make 40% of the site area open to the public,” says Mitchell.
“It’s a new, highly accessible space that links to the broader urban context of central Melbourne by inviting the public into and through the site – creating a community where commercial, hotel, residential and retail offerings engage with and are optimised by their specific setting,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell adds that the significance of being named principal lies in the opportunity to influence culture and project outcomes for the better.
“The point of being a principal is to foster a culture where the energy and focus are on the work. A commitment to the project and collaborative engagement with teams and stakeholders create an environment where everyone feels like they are part of something,” she says.
“You should always be able to rely on those at a senior level for big picture perspective and to make the space for what is needed to find a way forward.”