Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Retail Design Has Changed

The architecture, engineering, and construction sector is particularly susceptible to the type of anxiety and instability remarked on by nearly everyone these days. What client boldly looks at an uncertain future and answers "let's build!"? Hoping 2017 is better, one bright spot to report is the retail sector. Not only is the sector undergoing fascinating changes but people are building, with hints the sector is set to grow in the next year.

In general, people's habits changed to purchase more goods online and old media's influence shrank. It's a credit to the magnitude of change in the retail sector that returns architecture to a relevant role in marketing a brand. I'm rather accepting of the idea clients might want to express their brand in architecture. Some want to express their brand more literally as a style, which I guess is alright – it gets stuff built – but what I rather see is clients trying connecting with the community through good design. I'm not alone in advocating this; whole online magazines are dedicated to this segment and we're going to touch on a few of the best of the best here to encourage more excellent design in our neighbourhoods.  

credit Ed Reeve
The archetype here is the Apple store, the hard work of setting the pace of innovation done by the now well-known firms of Eight Inc. and Bohlin Cywinski Jackson. I'm not going to dwell too much on them because there's already been a tonne written about them and the world is big and filled with good design. Ultimately, this is sort of the mould of what a store redesigned as an experience looks like.

I'm a big fan of Herzog & de Meuron's Tate Modern extension and tucked inside is Amsterdam-based UXUS's museum gift shop. The interior looks great through a tall floor-to-ceiling windows even before entering. One inside customers can quickly tell the interior was extremely well-thought out. There's excellent visibility and space to move around; the store is logically laid out and designed to contrast the functions of different areas by using different materials; and the whole thing is flexible and can be rearranged on occasion to keep things fresh.

Overall, UXUS's portfolio impresses with their examples. Again and again there's a focus on the customer's experience which other designers either miss or is simply not appropriate for the type of commercial project to be undertaken. There's is a blindspot for the firm however, and that's sustainable design, which must be included on any scorecard these days to avoid an architectural retail catastrophe (like all the abandoned big ugly grey boxes built by one giant retailer who shall remain anonymous). Here the sustainable connection would seem rather obvious since Apple continues to march toward 100% renewable energy use while the UXUS website doesn't even use the colour green anywhere I could see (which of course we know really doesn't mean anything anyways).

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