London, United Kingdom
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Retail streets could become our cities unlikely saviour.
Woods Bagot has seen retail streets harness the potential of offline retail – which itself has become an experiential, leisure-based activity – and weave it in with historic, cultural and new built elements to create enjoyable spaces.
Having endured its fair share of recent disruption, built retail has weathered a storm of consumer and investor doubt to emerge as a drawcard for our global cities – holding significant placemaking power if designed with the right priorities in mind.
A growing demand for next-generation retail streets across Asia speaks to their global potential. Retaining the open air, pedestrian-friendly appeal of their predecessors, these successors improve interdependency within a city through a carefully curated approach to different urban typologies – wielding the ability to reinvigorate our cities by creating incredible destinations.
From the mall to the metaverse, today’s retail is synonymous with experience. When it comes to the physical store, retailers are seeking maximum impact. Two thirds say they want to open more stores in 2022 but, instead of 50 new locations, they will be looking at 15-20 high-profile sites that target their shopper demographic1Asia Pacific Retail Flash Survey, CBRE Research, October 2021. . These flagship stores will be attractions in their own right – functioning like thematic galleries in which the product is reframed as byproduct of the retail experience.
To overcome the challenge of creating greater impact with less, retailers are choosing the positions of their stores carefully. 50% are on the lookout for better locations, with 48% preferring the fresh-aired, pedestrian buzz of high streets2Asia Pacific Retail Flash Survey, CBRE Research, October 2021. . Where climate permits, this preference is reflected in the way the indoor shopping complex has shrunk to prioritize a composition with a larger allocation of streetside retail3Hybrid Retail, ARUP, 2021. – formalizing the retail street as an independent typology.
Offering a constellation of goods, sightseeing and entertainment, retail streets see the enclosed nature of retail space flipped open. Experience still reigns supreme but – instead of being contained – the design considers multiple plots, cross-site connectivity, focal point planning and integration with surrounding urban fabrics. To be successful, retail streets demand systematic thinking at the urban level that considers the needs of all users, rather than just shoppers visiting a venue for sales.
Prioritising experience, D.S. & DURGA’s second physical 600sf retail location is a 600sf store in Williamsburg designed a to work in concert with the fragrance house’s established brand.
The concept meets the client’s brief of creating architectural features from organic elements so that patterns present in nature, such as striations and mottling, mix with subversive aesthetics to add rhythm and texture to the space. By employing common materials used in innovative ways, the look and feel of rammed earth within the context of the Northeast was achieved.
At the rear of the store, a recessed “peep show window” offers a voyeuristic view of how fragrances are developed, all amid an edgy club-like glow.
Located in Melbourne, Australia, Sculptform Showroom creates a visitor experience that offers a tactile connection to the timber feature wall, ceiling and façade systems the business produces.
Looping around a central workshop, the space allows people to engage with something that can’t be found online – a physically immersive connection to Sculptform’s products and processes.
Visible from the street, Sculptform showroom offers a retail experience that blurs the line between retail space and installation.
When overlayed with a historic street or attraction, a retail street will enliven history with contemporary life. By emphasizing the site’s local characteristics with a planning approach that surrounds and radiates from the historic element, a retail street can gently guide pedestrians towards the attraction. In these cases, retail acts as a supporting function to history, with the trade-mix composition placing local food and souvenir shops in the center and high-end anchors at a slight distance to function as subcenters within the retail district.
By emphasizing the site’s local characteristics with a planning approach that surrounds and radiates from the historic element, a retail street can gently guide pedestrians towards the attraction.
Historic streets will often face heritage restrictions and limitations. As a result, their upgrade should focus on target areas and adjusting the trade-mix to best reflect the context.
Shanghai Yu Garden Wenchang Street saw Woods Bagot remagnetize a retail attraction that includes a Ming Dynasty garden and temple with contemporary design elements and planning. This was achieved via the restoration of the traditional detailing on the ‘Dragon’ and ‘Wenchang’ (named for the Taoist god of culture and literature) gates, ceiling and cloud pattern on the stone floor, reintroducing historic craftsmanship and the site itself as cultural attraction. A careful trade mix of antique, handicraft, traditional snack and souvenir retailers has been placed amongst space for entertainment and events reinforce the district’s appeal.
The Wenchang gate at Shanghai Yu Garden Wenchang Street.
The restored Dragon Gate.
The clouded pattern on the stone floor at Shanghai Yu Garden Wenchang Street.
A traditional Chinese joinery technique called Sun Mao has been reinstated on the ceiling at Fusan Wenchang Street, re-rooting history within the retail street.
Sun Mao detailing on the ceiling.
Tired streets only remind us of their better days. By upgrading existing landscaping and facades alongside new builds, a retail street can be the solution to regaining the lost charm of existing local characteristics while remaining socially, culturally and financially relevant. If the correct balance of old and new can be struck, a weary site can be revived via a focus on the maximization of circulation permeability and reinforcement of the local identity will help create a unified street appearance and atmosphere.
A weary site can be revived via a focus on the maximization of circulation permeability.
The regenerated street’s main target is the preservation of existing buildings, retaining the urban texture of the area through partial upgrades and the improvement works on landscape and facades.
This juggle of old and new elements is elegantly done in InPoint, Shanghai. Located on WuJiang Road, the project was the last piece in the puzzle completing the retail axis from Jinan Kerry Centre to Swire TaiKooHui. Tasked with converting the site to accommodate future double height flagship retail units and retaining WuJiang Road’s history as one of the cities most beloved ‘snack streets’, Woods Bagot focused on façade and internal upgrades to create major duplex anchors to give the street a sense of identity. Lighting, public seating, pockets of respite and a widened walkway all work to invite visitors to linger.
InPoint Shanghai is a retail mall with total GFA 13,000 sqm located in the very midst of the city.
Wood Bagot’s scope of works included the concept design, retail layout review and design.
Lighting, public seating, pockets of respite and a widened walkway all work to invite visitors to linger.
InPoint, Shanghai converts a ‘snack street’ to accommodate double height flagship retail units that helped regenerate the area and weave in the large shopping centers opening adjacent.
When a retail street is a new addition, the goal is to create a destination. A new-built retail street should emphasize hierarchical and sequential journeys that elevate the overall visiting experience through the zoning framework design – focusing on the creation of a three-dimensional circulation system. These sites need dedicated entry points that lead visitors through core zones that have distinct purposes and characters, working with the anchor store distribution strategy to create multiple retail pockets and slowly weave visitor journeys from one zone to another – lifting off the ground plane.
New-built streets should feature functional zones with their own purpose and character that work with with the anchor store distribution strategy to create multiple retail pockets that slowly induce visitors from one zone to another in an interconnected manner.
A new-built retail street should emphasize hierarchical and sequential journeys that elevate the overall visiting experience through the zoning framework design – focusing on the creation of a three-dimensional circulation system.
Set to open in 2023, Suzhou Cangji Retail creates a modern retail destination by unfolding the traditional horizontally linear retail journey into three-dimensions to add complexity and opportunity for discovery. Refencing older elements of the city, Suzhou’s unique cultural makeup is drawn on in the masterplan via new retail streets punctuated by smaller lanes, canals, bridges, squares and gardens that draw on the height and width of existing local streets. Thanks to innovative digital analysis, retail planning places visitors at the center of the design, maximizing visibility, value and experience, while the traditional Chinese garden has been reimagined as a three-dimensional feature garden that arches through the site and connects various retail zones.
The traditional Chinese garden has been reimagined as a three-dimensional feature garden with species selected to highlight each season, this model shows a section view of the layout.
The retail space is planned and designed using innovative computational software analysing big data and spatial design to provide feedback on value related to metrics such as area and shopfront visibility, store accessibility, and store efficiency.
Suzhou Cangji Retail: an innovative, experiential, and forward-thinking retail and lifestyle center.
At the heart and soul of the design, the retail development lies on the dynamic structure of the city today, seamlessly connected more than ever to the cultural and economic life of the region. The masterplan defines a modern retail destination that goes beyond the standard retail environment and captivates young generation of affluent intellectuals and travelers, who expect innovative, creative, up-to-date, and continuously evolving spaces and facilities.
The overarching aim of any retail street is to extend the amount of time visitors spend onsite. This aim holds deep value for retailers, who – faced with research showing that for each 1% increase in the time spent in the store there is a 1.3% increase in sales1Time is Money” Shoppers buy more when they stay longer, Path Intelligence, October 2021. – are on the lookout for sites that make people stay as long as possible.
Across Asia and beyond in cites like Dubai and Adelaide, Woods Bagot has seen retail streets harness the potential of offline retail – which itself has become an experiential, leisure-based activity273% of Chinese consumers regarded shopping as a leisure activity, and roughly half thought it was among the best ways of spending time with the family, according to a 2015 McKinsey study. – and weave it in with historic, cultural and new built elements to create enjoyable spaces. By prioritizing the experience of all users, the draw of the retail street beckons beyond the shopper to speak to a sense of civic generosity that improves a city at large by providing opportunities to socialise, sightsee, rest, and discover – lengthening dwell time, widening appeal and regenerating our cities.
Bluewaters is a reclaimed island development situated off the south western end of Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR) and Dubai Marina that speaks to the placemaking potential of new-built streets. Woods Bagot and Meraas worked together to develop the detailed design for all buildings in the Wharf Retail precinct including canopy design, the facade design and internal layouts as well as the design development of the transportation hub. The new-built retail streets within Bluewaters circulate visitors through the site in a way that allows them to sightsee while shopping.
In Adelaide, the Central Market Upgrade balances old and new elements – speaking to the potential of regenerated retail streets. In a modern interpretation of one of the city’s most popular shopping venues, this redevelopment will create a vibrant mixed-use destination that seamlessly integrates with the historic Central Market Hall—one of the largest fresh produce markets in the Southern Hemisphere—beside it. More than 8,000 square meters of retail, food and beverage and educational settings will be added to the arcade, with three new towers featuring a hotel, apartments and offices built atop.
Talk to Christopher Lye about Retail streets can regenerate our cities
With over 15 years of experience in the United Kingdom, Hong Kong and China, Chris has completed numerous retail and commercial projects and gained significant experience in project and design management. He is involved in many large-scale retail design projects across China, assisting developers to incorporate the company’s brands and philosophies. As the Studio’s Retail Sector Leader and part of Woods Bagot’s Retail Design Centre of Excellence group, he supports the Hong Kong Studio as the firm’s main retail hub for different global project reviews and collaborations.
Alongside his project work, Christopher is Head of Woods Bagot’s Asia Client Stream, leading the firm’s regional market share expansion across sectors and disciplines. Outside of work, Christopher is an active Member of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce’s China Committee and in 2017 was invited to become a Fellow of the Asian College of Knowledge Management.