We often get asked what the most important ingredients are for creating successful people movement in vertical environments. With this in mind, I have broken down the key ingredients of creating flow in vertical spaces.
The answer is extremely complex and is certainly not about number of escalators! Much of this involves unique place-making design principles, sightlines, customer experience and the obvious trade mix. On top of this, I always believe that the fundamentals lie in good functional planning and careful positioning.
Obviously, vertical retail utilises more express people movers, escalators and shuttle lifts, which help with people movement. They also allow us to design sky lobbies and meeting points located on otherwise out-of-reach spaces. They help us create value where there was none.
Connectivity and accessibility – If you can’t easily get there, people just won’t go there. The human instinct and a desire for convenience makes it necessary for us to design places that connect to the existing surrounding streets and pedestrian thoroughfares. Careful planning will improve natural way-finding and increase the overall legibility of the destination. Maximising the interconnectivity of uses in order to allow each function to benefit from each other will improve people flows.
Mechanically irrigating spaces with people – The successful crafting of a vertical shopping environment, relies on the strategic 3D planning of various complex functions, interconnected in a way that is intuitive to the movement of people. Vertical malls are becoming a common retail diagram in urban areas and we are beginning to see some winning solutions to a complex and difficult challenge. Express people movers, escalators and shuttle lifts, sky lobbies, sky terraces, upper and lower ground naming methods have all been used to brand less valuable out of reach spaces. In the case of a vertical mall, these methods allow us to populate upper trading floors that would otherwise be much less valuable.
Express escalators have been in many cases misused and misunderstood. Internally, one should always take into account the number of escalators needed for the user to get from place to place. No one likes to travel more than three escalator leaps to get to a destination within a building and inadequate escalator provision can easily discourage customers. Sometimes express escalators as a potential solution, could bypass the issue and cause more problems with sight lines.
A few years ago, German company ThyssenKrupp presented a new elevator design that uses magnets instead of cables, allowing lift cars to move both up and down and sideways. Ideas like these will revolutionise the way we inhabit our buildings and be a huge contribution to the ever so needed people flow in vertical retail buildings.
Create a Sense of Arrival – Place-making is about creating an address! Art, sculpture, landscape and good public space are very important for a new vertical retail space to become a memorable destination. These urban contributions, increase the value of the brand, bring longevity and create a “sense of place”. New ideas should always be considered to enhance or heighten the experience for the occupier, create personality and differentiate each floor from the next. The introduction of a touring Arts programme or a museum exhibition will help to take the image of a conventional mall out of a retail destination. Successful people movement in retail can be a result of creating more experiences!
Visibility and Sightlines – “You are more likely to go there if you can see it.” This is basic human instinct! Vertical retail environments need to be visually as well as physically permeable! Careful sectional planning of voids and bulk heads in retail environments will increase shop front exposure, visibility, encourage people movement and increase commercial revenue.
Natural Light – This could sometimes be a challenge to achieve, but natural light is sometimes a missed opportunity and there have been many misconceptions about retail and natural light. Humans are instinctively drawn to natural light. This instinctual habit is an unconscious desire and it can been a powerful tool when designing vertical spaces.
Flexibility and Variety – Having a great space with a poor mix of tenants and shops will not encourage repeat visits. It is important to consider spaces that are flexible enough to accommodate pop-up shops, restaurants and kiosks so places can change and excite the customer through-out the year.
Customer Care – Many mall owners have only just realised the importance of looking after the customer. Toilet facilities with baby change, play areas, customer seating are all elements that will encourage people to circulate and increase dwell time in our retail environments.
By: David Buffonge (Lead8 Co Founder & Executive Director)