Turning tired buildings into reinvigorated spaces is one of the most exciting – and demanding – challenges architects face. Times change, people want different things, but bricks and mortar are clearly less adaptable than public sentiment and expectation. The example of Whiteley’s shopping centre in West London is a good one.
Constrained by an outdated – even if ‘splendid’ – Edwardian building fabric and hemmed in by competition from local rivals (Westfield and Oxford Street), Whiteley’s has to reinvent itself if it is to stay relevant. It seems the solution is to repurpose and reposition the centre, giving it a distinctive identity and a new character built around diversity and ‘idiosyncratic’ retailers.
Our experience of breathing new life into fading shopping centres – both in the UK and internationally – resonates with what we are seeing proposed for Whiteleys.
At its heart, the challenge is to turn defunct into destination. To reinvigorate a space through creative design which can be incorporated into an established – and often inflexible – building fabric and core.
As we tackle similar briefs on projects from London to Shanghai, we are seeing the success of combining design skills with placemaking and softer skills. Fusing creativity in fit out design, for example, with innovation around imaginative and dynamic cultural spaces. Ultimately making retail centres re-connect with shoppers and people’s expectations in terms of their leisure time and experience. Today’s shopper wants excitement, fulfilment, stimulation and value like never before.
No two projects will be the same but there will always be cross-cutting themes and lessons to be learned. By adhering to the principles we follow at Broadway Malyan – namely distinctive placemaking achieved through balancing the past with the future and looking to connect places to the people they are trying to attract – shopping centre owners and investors can unlock value from outdated retail assets.
We’ll be watching Whiteley’s with interest. With Westfield breathing down its neck, there’s no doubting the scale of the challenge.
Chris Mead is a Director of Architecture at Broadway Malyan