Let’s talk about User Experience (UX).
The digital retailers have it all figured out. They map the ideal conditions that get customers from Point A to Point B and customers have come to expect that level of clarity.
In UX design, that critical path is called the Red Route.
Our proposal is to apply the lessons of digital retail to the built environment. We propose: 1) mimicking the hierarchical nature of the navigation bar; 2) extruding navigation down the length of Centergross; 3) developing links down to retail; 4) creating breadcrumbs in the form of landmark beacons and 5) creating a an anchor building that will serve as a homepage – a place to depart from and return to.
Using this framework, we have designed an intervention to the Italian Centergross mall that will renew its purpose as an Italian fashion hub and give it renewed life in a contemporary context.
"These days, if something is convenient, it’s probably been made possible by technology."
– Katie Finnegan, VP, Incubation, Walmart
A website’s navigation bar quickly creates an intuitive frame of reference for a visitor. Similarily, our aim is to create a quick and understandable frame of reference for Centergross visitors.
A key difference from website navigation in our scheme is that typically a navigation bar displays points of interest, in the form of pages, in a menu that is read primarily from left to right. When delving deeper, a user can explore cascading menus that descend downward.
Our scheme extrudes the navigational bar from west to east, with areas of further interest arranged in a perpendicular fashion with streets to the north and south. While the form is different, the principle is the same – a clear hierarchical arrangement of data in a linear presentation.
Links from a navigational bar act as forms of egress and ingress – for every new page one visits, they must exit another. The ultimate goal on a website, as it is in Centergross, is to retain visitor interest long enough to generate a financial transaction while providing an experience that is pleasurable enough to entice repeat visits.
Beacons at the crux of each link act as breadcrumbs for visitors. As one descends into the lower levels of a website’s hierarchy, this element provides clear orientation and means of return. In our scheme, these beacons allow for a quick and easy means of visually orienting oneself, while containing amenities that entice visitors to return.
Central to our scheme is a new building that replaces 5A. Much like a website’s main page, this is the showcase element of the site. It is purpose-built to draw attention, entice specific customer behaviours and be immediately identifiable as the branded core of the environment. Sun-lit and spacious, this space will encourage visitors to traverse the navigational system, directing them to new shopping experiences.
All new additions to Centergross will take into consideration the concept of holistic resiliency. While trends in fashion and retail undulate, repeat and evolve, the built environment is generally kept in stasis until such a time that iterations in consumer behaviour necessitate expensive and time-intensive change. For this reason, we are proposing interventions that are environmentally and socially sustainable. Informed by globally recognized programs like LEED and WELL, we are proposing a space that will last – one that respects the environment and the human experience.
Light permeation and daylighting are facilitated through new skylights and generous glazing. Currently, the dim corridors of Centergross shelter visitors from light, interrupting the flow of their circadian rhythm and affecting energy, digestive systems and mood. The glazed exterior of Site A will provide an aesthetic beacon on the site, but it will also act as signal for a place to recharge. Besides giving the impression of activity, floor cut-outs and transparent membranes between programming spaces will allow in light from the atrium, dispersing it through offices, classrooms and resting areas.
The aesthetic vernacular of our interventions is one of modern simplicity. These are buildings that provide comfort through considered design, not excess opulence. Temperature controls, simplicity of the built form, and considered acoustics minimize overstimulation stemming from cold, heat, optical overload and noise. Spaces for pause, reflection or quiet conversation are built into the design to provide moments of rest, away from work, shopping or study.
While high efficiency is paramount to the success of sustainability, the most effective way of saving energy or water is simply to use it (or even to produce it). Lighting systems integrated with digital sensors will allow for cost and energy savings, while elements that require constant illumination will be outfitted with high-efficiency bulbs. Electricity costs and use can be offset with rooftop photovoltaic systems. High-efficiency fixtures in washrooms and kitchens will mitigate water use, while rainwater can be collected for greywater use.
Centergross’ geographic location leaves few options in regards to car-centric arrival. Once inside the complex, however, small interventions can be made to create an immersive and enjoyable pedestrian experience. The inclusion of clear way-finding, shade stations for rest and moments of discovery through outdoor installations encourages exploration on foot. We also propose the inclusion of cycle stations that would allow visitors to navigate the site by bike.