Jane Embury looks at the future of retail interiors
The future of architecture has changed.
We need new kinds of sustainable architecture to reflect the changed realities of working from home for longer.
But we also need development and refurbishment to bring new life back to our towns and cities.
That twin challenge needs new thinking and a big dollop of imagination from planners and architects.
But it also means thinking about the interior spaces that we used to take for granted. Because many people will now be cautious about enclosed spaces or crowded places.
That means retailers reconfiguring their shops to make customers feel more secure. For example, better ventilation and product displays that discourage crowding.
The Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) has already published guidance on minimum ventilation standards.
In 2022, updated Part F Building Regulations will require significantly increased ventilation capacity in new buildings.
But whatever the future, we need shoppers back on the high street, because the high street is vital to the communities in which we live.
We’ve also said that we need more people living in our towns and cities. Recently, we’ve suggested innovative schemes to transform more empty spaces above shops into flats. Dublin is leading the way.
Or repurposing redundant offices into new homes, as the City of London is planning. It’s people who give urban areas vitality.
But part of the pandemic recovery strategy must be to make interior spaces feel safer, by making them feel larger.
After all, many of us have become used to being outdoors in parks or open areas. Large open places where we feel safe.
We want that same sense of safety to translate into interior spaces, whatever those interior spaces might be.
What’s not in doubt is our human need to work and socialise, and an important part of that is the simple act of shopping.
The retail sector will have to rethink itself, and part of that must involve glass. Glazing systems give a sense of space and, on an exterior wall, link the interior with the outside world.
Our interior and exterior systems, which include doors and screens, do just that. We provide a sense of space, even where there isn’t space. More than anything, our advanced steel glazing systems provide safety.
It’s all about public confidence, and building resilient high streets that we will all want to visit.
That may mean public investment because, up till now, our high streets have largely been privately funded.
In the new normal, we will need to build social and economic value into our towns and cities. That will require new thinking, and local and regional strategies.
Photo: Langham Place, Hong Kong, a major development to which we supplied advanced systems. The image was taken pre-pandemic.