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A
Z
The future of retail and workplace
Current
2020
list Article list

The future of retail and workplace

As economies and lifestyles evolve, what sort of thinking is needed to ensure architecture works to people’s advantage, improving their day-today lives? What opportunities do we have to help communities flourish with thoughtful design? These questions are the springboard for two new publications at Make.

Exchange is our new thought leadership series exploring the challenges and trends influencing different sectors of the property industry. In 2019 we published our second issue, which focuses on retail, a sector in extreme flux as e-commerce and changing consumer habits reshape the marketplace.

Flexibility is a noticeable refrain across the publication, with many of our contributors – from designers to developers – indicating the importance of retail space that’s fluid and adaptable for the future. Experience has become as paramount as product itself, and shops and centres that accommodate additional uses like events, cafés, workspaces and community services are gaining significant traction.

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Make’s Katy Ghahremani and Grigor Grigorov participating in a retail-focused roundtable.

It’s not just the physical infrastructure that needs to adjust, though; our contributors also urged architects, retailers, agents and landlords  themselves to evolve in step with shifting demands, whether it’s by widening research efforts or exploring flexible leasing models. “The challenge – and opportunity – is to adapt and embrace how retail is experienced,” says Maker James Chase.

Indeed, as managing director of Portland Design Ibrahim Ibrahim notes, the advent of online shopping has seen “the physical space cease to be a piece of property” and become “a piece of media” with “a different type of revenue potential.” A brick-and-mortar shop’s ability to influence behaviour is now as significant as its ability to sell products.

“Whether it’s Patagonia, which promotes a narrative around sustainability, or Rapha, which lets consumers connect with each other to create a community, more brands are offering retail as transformation rather than just transaction,” says Maker Katy Ghahremani. “We want to feel that we’re creating a better world or a better version of ourselves when buying a product.”

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Spitalfields Market, London, which dates back to 1666.
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Ibrahim Ibrahim, managing director of Portland Design.
 

Placemaking is another key theme of the publication, reflecting a broader push for development that enhances civic identity, respects local narratives, and offers relevant experiences and merchandise. For many industry professionals, connecting retail schemes with their surrounding environments – through considered scale, materials and routes – is a vital way to unite existing communities while also establishing new ones.

“It’s about creating a unique experience for the community to gather, connect and contribute to a place which is there to serve them,” says Joanna Russell of Fraser Property Australia. “Creating something beautiful means delivering an asset the community can feel pride in and ownership of.”

While Exchange No. 2 ruminates on all things retail, our 2019 Living Employment brochure sets its sights on the workplace sector. Building on  survey conducted with Bradley Baker of London developer CO–RE, in which 100 London occupiers were asked about the criteria driving their decisions around new premises, the brochure explores the future of workplace design. It points to emerging trends in the sector, including the increasing intersection of people’s work and personal lives, and introduces the concept of ‘Living Employment Destinations’ – attractive, dynamic working environments that drive value through desirability for employers, works and the local community alike.

Championed by Maker Frank Filskow, Living Employment is a contrast to the ‘just working for a living’ model, with an emphasis on helping people lead a fulfilling life as they work. He envisions commercially dynamic workplaces that drive value through a holistic view of productivity, flexibility and amenity.

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Make’s Living Employment brochure, produced in collaboration with CO–RE.

 

Key to this is recognising the day-to-day needs of workers – the nursery runs, lunchtime errands, gym visits and doctor’s appointments they have to fit around their working day – and providing more relevant ‘non-workspace’ inside and alongside commercial buildings to help. An increased provision of restaurants, collaborative spaces, crèches, shops, gardens and balconies could radically transform an employee’s work/ life balance, fostering a more fulfilled workforce for the forward-thinking employer.

“In the commercial industry, there’s already a widely understood trend among occupiers for raising workplace standards and improving people’s daily lives at work,” says Frank. This is certainly reflected in our research with CO–RE: 90% of the occupiers surveyed felt that wellbeing will grow as a top factor for commercial property in the next five years. With employers so clearly interested in spaces that that boost  employee-centric welfare, the sector is ripe for new ideas from designers and developers.

Frank, for example, is exploring ways to “blur the boundary between public and private and consider buildings that simultaneously support work life, home life and leisure.” Taken to its logical extreme, this kind of building could be part of a larger mixed-use development that blends all types of commercial and social activity – from homes to trade and retail spaces – to foster round-the-clock use. In such a development, the hub created is far greater than the sum of the individual businesses occupying it.

As with Exchange No. 2, our Living Employment brochure encourages built environment professionals to consider emerging trends and aspire to deliver people-focused places fit for the next generation of users. Like all of our thought leadership, it’s part of our continuing mission to reimagine present landscapes for the future.

Article extracted from Make Annual 16.