INTERNET SHOPPING, same-day delivery,
and new channels of retail distribution require
the complete rethinking of shopping center
designs by architects, retailers, and developers.
In response we must re-conceive the built
marketplace through a different way of thinking—one that challenges the very notion of a
fixed brick-and-mortar place. We must envision something that is adaptable, varied, flexible, dynamic, and fluid—something that can
accommodate a far more dynamic mix of shops.
This cannot be achieved by building more space
that requires a sledgehammer to change it.
A smarter, long-term strategy would be to
re-engineer the mall’s DNA to create a fluid
space that can accommodate a constant rotation of merchants, goods, and consumers.
This would require creating a highly flexible
envelope to allow for a rapid change of stores
and merchandise, morphing displays, theatrical lighting and sound, flexible to-the-point
data-transmission lines, and better connections to supply-chain delivery systems to
accommodate stores with intentionally short
lifespans, temporary brand showcases, and
customized merchandising events. Such a
dynamic place would cater to an ever-changing
story line, unlike the modern mall with its tired tenant mix operating under long-term leases, accessed by corridors cluttered with
parasitic kiosks and temporary tenants operating in the shells
of failed chain stores, along with their stained carpets, sagging
ceiling tiles, and scuffed walls—now called pop-up shops by mall
With their fly spaces, trap rooms, turntables, orchestra pits, and
back-of-house staging areas, Broadway theaters have long been
designed to allow for shows and their sets to change quickly within
the fixed structure. Retail spaces in the mall should be perceived
in the same manner to become similarly adaptable for quick scene
changes, almost on the fly. In figurative terms, imagine a Rubik’s
cube: turntables, sliding walls, and elevators to allow “
plug-and-play shops” with easily and quickly adaptable proportions to
accommodate different presentations of merchandise for a changing audience of consumers—according to time of day, day of week,
season, and citywide events.
A real example is the newly announced Cultural Shed, planned
to hold temporary events such as Fashion Week at Hudson Yards.
The Island Maison Pavilion by Moshe Safdie and the interior
designs by Peter Marino for Louis Vuitton at
Marina Bay Sands, Singapore, is another model
of a varied and flexible structure that could
accommodate retail change. Safdie’s 35-foot-
high main pavilion is essentially a glass box,
which surrounds Peter Marino’s smaller modu-
lar retail cubes that showcase the luxury goods
of Louis Vuitton. The glass box is long term, but
the modular cubes within the overall pavilion
can be changed overnight.
NEW RIBBONS OF COMMERCE
Successful marketplaces of the future will be
designed on a foundation of the senses, not
on blocks of mortar or on data streams. Malls
will become places of sensory magic—whole
and complete places that are alive, vital, and
culturally relevant. In addition to providing
fashionable goods, dining, and entertainment,
malls will showcase design, art, and architecture. The result will be adaptable and flexible
public and private spaces layered with retail
inner sanctums, intimate retreats, community gathering places, event spaces, theaters,
showcases, galleries, and museums. All will be
interconnected by landscaped vistas with lush
gardens, dramatic atriums, sky bridges, grand
staircases, and new forms of pedestrian streets
Hospitality, recreation, fashion, dining, lifestyle demonstrations, personal care, education, entertainment, and cultural production will be woven into a highly textured marketplace. New
materials, innovative lighting, water, fire, music, and art will be
the elements of a multi-layered and organic marketplace. Free
of rigid urban grids, new ribbons of commerce will form horizontally, diagonally, and vertically to connect with new retail
stepping-stones and floating cubes of commerce.
Most importantly, future malls will restore and preserve something fundamental to society: face-to-face interaction, socializing,
creative expression, collective learning, and the open exchange
of ideas. This vision is based on a simple premise: As more components of the digital consumer age become hardwired into
the brain, the mall will respond in part to become somewhat of
a consumer sanctuary for data detoxification, providing a more
subtle nourishing of our senses and enhancing our experience of
Rick Hill is founder of J. Richard Hill & Co., a real estate consultancy,
and a 30-plus-year veteran in the shopping center and retail marketplace industry. Contact him at 502-417-4361, e-mail rick.hill@
jrichardhill.com, or through the website, www.jrichardhill.com.
The Fluid Shopping Mall
the mall’s DNA
to create a fluid
space that can
J. Richard Hill & Co.