people gathered around a kiosk near the Brooklyn Bridge
Over/Under Kiosks, New York, COURTESY WOODS BAGOT

Woods Bagot on Prioritizing People and Community in Spacemaking

Part of the Leading Edge series, three Woods Bagot leaders explain how their global reach and unique multidisciplinary approach allow them to create human-centric designs that resonates with the people around them.


What makes an architecture and design practice unique? How do firms and offices develop areas of expertise, deep insights, and passion projects? For the Leading Edge series, Metropolis editor in chief Avinash Rajagopal sat down with 20 firms in 2022, speaking to practitioners about what distinguishes their work. Watch the full series on DesignTV by SANDOW.

International architecture, interiors, and masterplanning studio Woods Bagot has been delivering design solutions alongside clients, communities, and other creatives for over 150 years. Their dedication to progressive thinking and innovation results in outcomes that inspire users and break new ground. With 17 studios across six regions, their global reach and unique multidisciplinary approach allow Woods Bagot to create human-centric design that resonates with what’s going on in the world today while anticipating the needs of tomorrow. Part of the Leading Edge series, CEO Nik Karalis, principal and regional design leader for North America David Brown and principal and interior design leader Krista Ninivaggi all discuss how Woods Bagot prioritizes people and their communities in spacemaking.

Woods Bagot’s Vision

“Woods Bagot’s ambition is to create a truly global business framework. What we mean by global is different than what a lot of people think. We are made up of an international collective of over a thousand people in 17 studios with many cultures, and many languages, but at the core of our model is the thesis of our Global Studio. It’s not about a founder per se, it’s about a foundation—and human-centric design drives us.

Today, we believe that architecture is in a position of crisis; it needs to recreate a whole new identity focused on ethics and people. Our industry can’t keep doing what it’s done up to now: just assume that if we build brick-and-mortar spaces, people will continue to clumsily occupy them. Woods Bagot’s global footprint allows us to create hybridized sectors and really analyze how humans use space from the inside out and then back inside again.

 Large open lounge area with green sofas at the center
The Brooklyn Tower Residence 53A, Brooklyn, NY, COURTESY GABRIEL SAUNDERS

Woods Bagot’s Breadth of Work

We deliver a diverse range of work around the construct of total design, an iterative and multidisciplinary approach to user-centric design. We have architects, interior designers, urbanists, anthropologists, change managers, and consultants all trying to move beyond conventional approaches to architecture to bring new, multifaceted thinking to problem-solving. We’re identifying issues and then looking at them through non-traditional lenses, not always architectural and built environment ones. About 10% of our people are non-practicing architects—and it makes us very proud that they can not only contribute but also challenge, provoke, and encourage us to always do great work. 

One of the interesting things about the last couple of years is that people now have more freedom and choice; they don’t have to come into the work every day and they can pick up and move to other cities. This has created a condition where our clients have had to go back to basic principles about the value proposition of what we’re doing. What’s going to attract people to come to this building or office space, or to buy in a particular residential building? We keep pushing to find the best solutions that answer the needs of today while predicting those of the future to create something new.

The diversity and richness of our work is critical to our portfolio. We never have two projects that look the same. That’s why our design aesthetic, in a way, is amorphous. This creates a condition where anything is possible–something that we as thinkers and designers all really enjoy.” 

Nik Karalis is CEO of Woods Bagot; David Brown is principal and regional design leader for North America at Woods Bagot; and Krista Ninivaggi is principal and interior design leader of Woods Bagot

The Leading Edge

This story is part of the Leading Edge Metropolis partnership series that examines what sets apart architecture and design practices. Explore the core values and new initiatives of industry innovators across disciplines. 

Would you like to comment on this article? Send your thoughts to: [email protected]