Could city quartiers become the future retail centres?

21 Jul 2017
By : Lead8

In this ICSC China Shopping Review Magazine HOT TOPICS article, Lead8 Co Founder & Executive Director Simon Chua considers the opportunity to transform future retail centres into city quartiers – to create inspirational and exciting retail experience for new consumers.

Simon says retail centres could be a landscape of blocks and eventually, a new neighbourhood in the city. A development combining a series of mini blocks integrating heritage, entertainment, education and more, it can become a part of the city’s language and its history,

Click here to read the full story on P. 48-49.


Could city quartiers become the future retail centres?
By: Simon Chua

I remember walking into a TSUTAYA store many years ago in Tokyo and was surprised by the ambience that surrounds the space with lounge chairs, trees, immaculate stationery collection, a vast collection of design books and the most memorable element – the scent of freshly brewed coffee. I walked towards the coffee bar in the centre of the store and realised it’s full of people sitting comfortably in lounge chairs, quietly reading, sipping coffee and working on their laptops; just like how we used to be as a university student in a library. I realised then that I was in a curated space, a space that defines you, the way you work, the things you like and the way how others perceive you. Perhaps a physical form of social media?

Many tenants today, especially lifestyle brands, are reinventing themselves for a new generation of consumers. The curation of new products involves portraying their target group with a very strong personality and character. An example would be sports brands using virtual reality (VR) technology to introduce and promote their products to consumers. A powerful storytelling tool for the brand, this simulated environment created by VR allows consumers to envision themselves experiencing their product. This connection not only brings in new experiences, interaction and content to consumers today but also starts to influence the future of retail spaces.

In many of the projects we are currently working on at Lead8, such as Shanghai Xujiahui Centre, TODTOWN in Shanghai, Star Plaza in Chengdu, MixC Shenzhen Bay, Changde Bund Waterfront Masterplan, to name a few, interacting with tenants and brands become an inevitable part of the process. This has an influence on design where it pushes our creative thinking into the next level. How can we generate interesting places, curate exciting backgrounds for retailers and new, engaging experiences for consumers?

The blend of art and retail have aroused as a new trend in recent years with some being labelled as ‘art malls’. The traditional atriums of many retail developments today are now covered with mini city squares, perfect for artistic installations and offering developers the opportunity to bring in inspirational artists and artisans to promote the local culture, knowledge and the creative industries. Extending and internalising environments such as streets and squares is also becoming more visible as a means to encourage the integration of arts, technology and entertainment, as well as a way to create new value in the city.

As architects, our philosophy is to challenge ourselves and to create the next paradigm, the next benchmark of design. We like to explore new ways to make retail centres less ‘mall like’ because retail space is never stationary, but with emotion and mobility, and that is why we aim to truly bring our work to life.

Do shopping malls need to look like malls?

The days are over with glitzy malls, oversized atriums and opulent interiors. Standardised circulation routes with vertical nodes which seemed to be replicated time after time, city after city, are no longer relevant. Retail spaces can become friendlier, smaller in scale and size, making it easier to navigate, boost the ‘BI-GE’ (feel-cool) morale of many millennials particularly in China today, and ideally closely integrated with the city’s transportation network where the station becomes the ‘city park’ for people to meet, exercise and enjoy.

I would also like to think that retail centres could be a landscape of blocks and eventually, a new neighbourhood in the city. A development combining a series of mini blocks integrating heritage, entertainment, education, etc., it becomes a part of the city’s language and its history, whilst a place a child can grow up too. A colleague once said to me in the studio, the spaces can look like a museum, school, gallery or even a park but most importantly, they should be places that encourages people to play, participate and feel at home.

Consumer behaviour has shifted and will continue to evolve in the years ahead. While they have more choices and control than ever before on how to spend their money, it is not surprising to anticipate greater expectations and pressing demands in the future. With the traditional retail ‘box’ broken down into smaller elements, it is not only more flexible to change in the future, it is also entertaining to use as the zones are more clearly defined; creating an inspirational, exciting, and convenient retail experience for new consumers.

Who knows, this could be our future new urban quartier?


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