What makes our design process different?

September 17, 2017 / Alex Ogata

Designing some of the largest and most complex projects in the world changes how you perceive time. Olympic cities are selected a decade or more before the games start. Airports, convention centers and stadiums can take just as long to plan and realize. Whatever technology is in use today will look tired or, even worse, obsolete, by opening day.

So at Populous, we set our sights beyond the horizon. A powerful optimism and forward thinking permeates our design and research. This is especially true at the very onset of a project. The ideas that shape our future architecture require a fearless optimism. We believe if an idea is powerful enough, it will find a way to become a reality, even against impossible odds.

Take three current initiatives of ours as examples:


The challenge issued by the Airport Consultants Council (ACC) was simple: Develop an idea that improves any aspect of the airport experience. Our designers focused on the oft-overlooked arrivals curb. By combining digital and physical airport infrastructure with ridesharing and mobile technologies, their concept eases the pain of travelers and opens new revenue opportunities for operators. ACC judges agreed, awarding CurbShare first prize in the organization’s innovation competition. The idea is currently being considered as a possible solution for airports throughout our practice.

The eSports venue of the future

At their core, sporting events are about competition, and sports facilities are about elevating the collective experience of those events. Esports is no different, but its live experience has distinctly unique needs. In response to those needs, we dug deeper to imagine a new purpose-built venue that caters this rapidly growing audience. Our work and research in this up-and-coming market is another example of how we think differently.

Applied research

Whether it’s focused on a field like fabrication or virtual reality or focused on a specific tool like grasshopper or fractal, our technology research is an integral part of our design process. In practice, this means R&D is often initiated and led by all designers, not a department. Our Populous Research Fellowship exemplifies this approach, with this year’s fellow focusing on how to predict and influence the behaviors of crowds during large events to improve their experience. We also team up with other industry leaders like Nielsen Sports for in-depth analysis of fans’ shifting expectations.

The spaces we create demand we look beyond today’s design trends and styles. This often forces us to incubate new technologies and create new markets that will become reality by the time our work is complete. Thinking impossible things, after all, is only the first step in creating the future.


Meet the author

Alex Ogata

Principal, Studio Director / Kansas City


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