World-renowned architects Woods Bagot are a people architecture company who place human experience at the centre of its design process. As it celebrates 150 years of practice, RLI took the opportunity to sit down with Director Stephen Jones to discuss one of the unique projects the company worked on and how the business continues to move forward with one clear idea in mind.

Woods Bagot is a global design and consulting studio with a team of over 1,000 experts working across 15 studios in Asia, Australia, Europe, the Middle East and North America. This global studio model allows the company to work collaboratively across time zones and borders, using the latest technology to share design intelligence and strengthen their knowledge base around the world.

Back in August, the company celebrated 150 years of practice at the St Peter’s Cathedral in Adelaide, Australia and over 80 guests including clients, dignitaries and Woods Bagot Principals gathered to rejoice in the firm’s success and history in the first building designed by founders Edward John Woods and Walter Bagot.

Woods Bagot was founded on the idea of designing for future growth related to both cities and people. This clear driver remains the firm’s foundation and has fuelled expansion from one studio in Adelaide to 15 across the globe, covering more than nine sector typologies that create holistic buildings and precincts around the world.

The Tree of Life design concept is the architectural centrepiece at the heart of Funan, around which Woods Bagot has created an efficient retail offering. Predominantly made of steel, the 25-metre-tall Tree of Life offers spaces for brands to showcase their products and crafts, and for entrepreneurs and design ateliers to conduct classes and workshops.

This design focus can still be seen in the projects the company works on today, and is clearly evident in one unique recent completion, Funan, the redevelopment of CapitaLand’s Funan DigitalLife Mall, for which Woods Bagot completed the envisioning, masterplanning, architecture and interior design.

Funan is an integrated mixed-use lifestyle destination that opened on 28 June 2019 that is comprised of an experience-focused retail centre with leisure culture and entertainment offerings, two Grade-A office blocks and a nine-storey lyf co-living serviced residence, becoming a new paradigm for living, playing and working in Singapore’s city centre and represents an experiential civic hub.

“Funan is a highly integrated development that blurs the traditional lines of function and experience. Public spaces, business, commerce, co-working, co-living, entertainment and cultural offerings come together. Connective elements run through the building, from the pedestrian tourist route, to the active bike path that marks a first for a commercial building in Singapore, to the vertical circulation that takes visitors from basement click-and-collect points to the diversity and dynamism of the upper levels,” explains Stephen Jones, Director at Woods Bagot.

“Woods Bagot’s involvement in the development of Funan, from envisioning through masterplanning, architecture and interior design, which also saw us lead an international team of creatives, allowed us to deliver a highly integrated, richly layered project that we believe marks a new era in mixed-use and retail. This integrated redevelopment addresses the new generation of tech-savvy consumers who are in search of collaboration, experiences and recreation under one roof where visitors can engage and build community.”

The project was designed to be a civic hub where people could carry out all aspects of life, from playing to working to living and the 889,000sq ft redevelopment features a public plaza on the ground floor that allows people to gather in this semi-public area and pass through on foot or by bicycle.

To honour the history of the site, the offer to customers is driven by technology, yet the experiences available at Funan represent ones that cannot be found online as they are all about human interaction and physical experiences, from workshops and seminars to sports, wellness facilities and theatre offerings.

The design concept is manifested in “The Tree of Life”. The Tree of Life is symbolic of the idea that creativity grows from collaboration. The concept at the heart of the project is the Tree of Life, around which Woods Bagot created the retail offering. The Tree of Life is a wooden and steel structure that rises through six storeys, from the Basement 2 to Level 4 at the centre of Funan. The symbolic idea of the creation is that creativity grows from collaboration.

For Woods Bagot, Funan began six years ago with feasibility studies and the demanding but rewarding project continued through envisioning, masterplanning, architecture and interiors. Engaging the expertise of Woods Bagot, CapitaLand’s Funan is the realisation of a desire to build young, vibrant communities by integrating an experiential mall with dynamic co-working and co-living spaces and is a reflection of a commitment to embrace a culture of innovation.

“The planning and vision required to achieve this landmark project was significant. The dedication and hard work of Woods Bagot, as well as the enduring support of our client, CapitaLand, allowed us to push the boundaries and deliver a ground-breaking new mixed-use development,” concludes Jones.