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HomeCover StoryFEB 2023 - Woods Bagot - AI Plaza

FEB 2023 – Woods Bagot – AI Plaza

FEB 2023 - Woods Bagot - AI Plaza 1

A global architecture studio that spans 17 studios in six regions, Woods Bagot does not adhere to a signature style and approaches each project from a new and unique perspective, working alongside clients, communities and other creatives. Here, RLI spends some time with Billy Ip, Principal, Asia Sector Leader – Retail to discuss the growth and development of the company and learn more about one of its key retail schemes, AI Plaza.

Specialising in architecture, interiors and masterplanning, Woods Bagot explores data to predict changing human behaviour and believes in people architecture – a celebration of diversity across cultures which is propelled by a shared sense of empathy where the values of the end users and the values of design become one and the same.

Inspiring innovation with inclusiveness, Woods Bagot has worked on many world-class projects in multiple markets across the world in recent times. In the Middle East, their services have been utilised for the Blue Water Island Wharf in Dubai, which is a reclaimed island development positioned off the south western end of Jumeirah Beach Residence and Dubai Marina as well as the 25hours Hotel One Central, also in Dubai. The company delivered the interiors for the first ever 25hours Hotel in the region and the design seamlessly blends nomadic and contemporary design, creating a one-of-a-kind destination in Dubai.

In Australia, the business was involved in Creating the Future Sephora, an evolution of the brand manifesting in a new beauty destination in Sydney and Auckland. They worked with Harry Seidler & Associates on the 25 Martin Place Retail Redevelopment in Sydney to reinvigorate the podium of the MLC Centre in order to cement its reputation as the pre-eminent office, retail and urban address in Martin Place and the CBD and they are working on the InterContinental Hotel Sydney, drawing from its past grandeur to introduce new materials, details and furnishings synonymous with the relaxed Australian lifestyle.

FEB 2023 - Woods Bagot - AI Plaza 2
All images are of
AI Plaza, Shanghai, China

In Europe, Woods Bagot spent nearly a decade creating The Londoner, a modern and luxury urban resort that offers an extraordinary visitor experience and exceptional service. London’s first ‘Super-Boutique’ hotel opened to the public back in September 2021 and the 16-storey scheme has been sensitively integrated into the historic urban fabric of Leicester Square – the famous entertainment district in London.

Across Asia they have been involved with the first Apple store in Changsha in the Hunan province, which features a uniquely-designed all-new double-height glass façade. They have lent their expertis e to the ground-breaking Funan scheme in Singapore which is a new paradigm for living, working and playing in the city centre and T Galleria by DFS in Hong Kong & Macau. At the Hong Kong site, the design links elements of traditional culture and craftsmanship to future innovation, aspiring to leave a lasting impression whilst at the Macau unit the firm designed and delivered an integrated architecture and interiors package for luxury retail in a way it has never been done before.

Finally in Asia, Woods Bagot has also been involved with the AI Plaza development, which was recently selected as the winner in the International Shopping Centre – New Build category at the Global RLI Awards 2022.

“This scheme is located in the West Bund District which is the home of the art & media district in Shanghai,” explains Billy Ip, Principal, Asia Sector Leader – Retail. “The project is situated adjacent to the “Vertical Silicon Valley” – Shanghai AI Tower and is surrounded by a large swathe of art galleries and museums in the emerging art & media context of Shanghai West Bund and features a gross floor area of 75,000sq m across one underground level and six above ground levels.”

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Standing for ‘Art & Intelligence’, the design concept for AI Plaza connects the art district and the media district as a Borderless A.I. Cloud which allows for the infinite imagination of art and technology.

“AI Plaza stands amid more than 20 art galleries, exhibition halls, theatres and libraries in West Bund which is becoming Asia’s largest art zone. The project involves nature, art and the latest smart applications developed by leading artificial intelligence companies based in the neighbouring Shanghai AI Tower.”

The project plays an important part in building an “AI Valley” in Shanghai by unleashing a new hybrid development, one that merges digital art within a retail experience.

“It is a retail museum,” Ip highlights. “It is a commercial platform as well as incubator and extension of art shows and exhibitions within the art museum quarter as it can host indoor art exhibitions on a smaller scale and create specialised zones to sell innovative art products. AI Plaza brings a brand-new urban landmark to the city of Shanghai.”

Upcoming projects by Woods Bagot include the renovation of Hysan Place in Hong Kong where the new concept is all about creating a
place for trendsetters and a destination for those who live in their own life attitudes. Outside of Hong Kong the company is involved in two projects in Australia, one is the redevelopment of the Six Senses resort at Burnham Beeches in Melbourne where the resulting masterplan encompasses three experiential zones – the Mansion and Spa, the Village Green and the Hilltop Retreat whilst the other is redevelopment of the Central Market Arcade in Adelaide, which forms part of a prominent retail and dining destination that spans the Adelaide Central Market, Market Plaza, Chinatown, Gouger Street and Grote Street.

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With work on so many past, current and future projects, we ask Ip what are the key drivers of the business amid this ongoing success?

“Designing for people is an inherently empathetic endeavour that requires listening and conversation. We believe that our best work comes from seeing our process of engaging with clients, communities and designers as an intersecting continuum of shared ideas and collective thinking. We relentlessly pursue better outcomes and solutions through advanced analytics, constructive critiquing, collaboration and a deep understanding of the clients’ and users; needs. It is not about egos, it is about collectively creating the best possible outcomes for the client.”

The world has changed since the pandemic and Ip feels the challenges this has created led to new opportunities for Woods Bagot as leaders in the creative industry, building future cities and new communities.