As online shopping gains in popularity, ideas surrounding retail destinations like malls are having to be rethought, says Jim Anderson, the chair of DIALOG, who was in Vancouver last month to speak at a trade show on ways good design can help brick-and-mortar retail locations survive — and thrive.
“People don’t go to the shopping centre to buy any more,” says Anderson, who attended BUILDEX, a Western Canadian event for the construction, renovation, architecture, interior design and property management industries. “They used to go to shop, but they can buy it online, so the experience needs to be a richer experience, more a sense of place.”
To achieve this sense of place, shopping malls must feel like they’re an extension of the surrounding community, rather than just being “an isolated island within a suburban destination”, Anderson says.
“Part of the shopping experience is to go and eat, and browse, have a coffee and then browse again,” he says.
When DIALOG designed Toronto’s Sherway Gardens, one of the largest malls in the GTA, Anderson says it applied this philosophy.
“We deliberately expanded it towards the street to start to address the street in an urban way, rather than simply be an island in the middle of a parking structure,” he says. “And not just addressing it in a ‘façadism’ type of way, like dressing up the exterior — a brick fortress in the middle of a parking lot — but actually activate the experience so that from the outside things were happening.”
One of the ways they did this was by moving the food court from its traditional spot at the centre of the mall to the street, giving it presence.
“The exterior wall has a view to the street,” he says. “It also has a view to the interior street, the mall, so it’s a place to be seen and people watch.”
They also designed the mall around where the transit stops are, and are going to be, preserving part of the site for a subway station, and really thinking about how people will be arriving at the mall, not simply “from a car to the entrance”.
“So how will people actually arrive by bicycle?” he says. “How would they arrive by foot? How would they arrive by bus? How would they first experience the shopping centre?”
Physical retail spaces will survive, Anderson says; they just need to be better spaces, giving JJ Bean Coffee Roasters, whose locations in Vancouver and Toronto were designed by DIALOG, as an example.
“Every location reflects the community it’s part of,” he says. “They’re not all the same. People are tired of the cookie-cutter approach to retail design, and actually like so many things in life, are looking for a genuine and authentic approach that reflects the place.”
This desire for authenticity in the things we buy, or places we frequent is a global design trend, says Anderson, and is reflected in everything from the rise of the makers movement to the popularity of farmers markets. When designing Sherway Gardens, Anderson says they created the infrastructure to support a farmers market because people like to see food presented in fresh market environments.
“The Granville Island experience is a great one,” he says. “People are looking at how to actually have that type of experience. In Toronto, the St. Lawrence market experience: how can they transport that to their own community?”
Though people are now shopping for everything from fashion to food online, and are inundated with choice, Anderson says there is also a growing interest in consumers wanting to see how and where goods are made, and connect with those producing them.
“The more fast paced our environment, the more electronic our environment, the more we actually crave that sense of touch and feel of things, and an understanding of not just how they were made, but that somebody made them,” he says.
Source : http://vancouversun.com/homes/the-home-front-design-complex