Increased Dependence of the Retail Sector on Architectural Design and Vice Versa

By – Pushpendra N Sharma (B. Arch), CEO, Mantra Consultants

Louis Sullivan once said “Form Follows Function” and as developments stand today in India, we can understand the meaning of these three words. There are different connotations to the true meaning of what he had said, however, we can relate it to the present situation in India, where both the architecture design elements as well as the booming retail sector are not only interdependent but are also an integral part of the growing Indian economy. This article attempts to explore the nature and causes of this interdependence.

Changes In Architecture Due To Retail Dynamics:
Since the year 1999, the year of the inception of the Indian retail revolution, architecture as well as the retail Industry has seen an exponential growth in terms of the nature of designs conceptualized and executed as well as the number of retail
projects. Indian consumers today are more global with their thinking; they have experienced the changing retail scenario and can relate to the design elements. They are a lot more demanding towards the kind of concepts that exist and are constantly
driving the retailers and architects to innovate.

Architectural concepts have evolved with the changing retail sector. Old fashioned “shopping arcades” are giving way to structurally more efficient and comfortable retail complexes.

a. Instead of traditional air-cooled arcades, we now have air-conditioned complexes.

b. The traditional single point exit & entry has been converted to a multi point system to ease pedestrian movement, internal circulation and security.

c. Traditional staircases have been converted to escalators & capsule elevators.

With projects such as DLF City Center (located in Gurgaon, Haryana India), In-orbit (located in Mumbai, Maharashtra India), The Forum (located in Bangalore, Karnataka, India) etc. we can see that there has been a significant growth in the style, kind and variety of architecture projects across India. Following are some of the needs of a developing retail environment that are impacting the change in architectural designs:

1. Optimum Utilisation Of Space In A Congested Urban Setting: The architectural designs need to result in comfort and ease of shopping, ensuring an effective circulation pattern of internal spaces. For example, Expo City (located in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India) is one of the examples of classic orientation and utilization of space vis-à-vis it’s location.

2. Various Sizes And Locations Of Shops For Different Stores And Concepts: The structure should provide various alternatives for retailers based on their individual needs and positioning; such as shop in shop concepts/ multi brand outlets/ stand-alone stores etc.

3. Amenities And Structure: The building should have open spaces, large atriums and have a contemporary look and feel in line with the global best practices. Amenities such as a controlled environment with 100% power back-up, central airconditioning, round the clock security, escalators, elevators, surface & basement parking being a few of the expected features in new developments. e. g. Treasure Island, (located in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, India).

4. Construction Materials: There has been tremendous innovation and experimentation in the kind of materials that have been used in construction of retail projects – interior & exterior facades, floorings, false ceiling, finishing’s etc. There has been a complete change in this context, owing to innovative building technologies and material compositions. Materials used in construction have changed from plain vanilla brick & mortar to elaborate aluco-bond finishing’s, curtain glazing etc.

5. Contextual Design: The design of the retail store needs to be contextual with the location. A “neighbourhood mall” concept, for example, will need to take into account a façade cohesive with the neighbourhood, and will have to ensure adequate parking facility to prevent congestion in the residential area. An example of such a concept would be The Pristine Mall & Multiplex (located in Sector-31, Faridabad, Haryana, India).

How Retail Sector Has Changed Architectural Designs:
At the same time, the retail sector and the consumer buying behavior is also changing as a result of the architectural and design elements incorporated in the new developments. The old-fashioned retailing concepts have also become a part of
the burgeoning modern retail culture due to the kind of specialised architectural elements provided in the new developments; for example, perishables like vegetables can be sold within an air-conditioned mall environment, this is possible due to built
in facilities like warehouses and cold storage.

It is today feasible for retailers of all sizes to look at taking up a space in new developments as a result of a multitude of choices being available, in terms of size, location and cost of stores. Consumer behavior is also changing as a result of the
new developments. Concept retailing and innovative designing have dramatically altered the approach of the Indian consumer to shopping. Concept retail brands such as Barista (Coffee Chain), PVR (Multiplex Operator), Big Bazaar
(Hypermarket), Shoppers Stop (Department Store) and Arcus (Home & Building Store) have led to a significant change in the pattern of consumer shopping behavior.

In India today, there is a rising preference of malls over high street and traditional shopping areas due to the following design elements:

a. Location advantages provided by positioning of malls

b. Provision of a “One-Stop-Shop”. The large format stores incorporate everything under one roof, thereby resulting in greater convenience.

c. The ambience and structure of a mall provides an ideal opportunity for a ‘family outing’; thus combining business with pleasure.

d. Ease of parking – provision for dedicated surface, basement & valet parking make it less stressful to shop.

e. Malls provide a controlled environment in terms of temperature, quality and customers, thus providing a leisurely mode of shopping.

f. Lastly, there is ease of shopping with disabled & aged people. It is possible to easily move around due to special amenities provided for them, such as entry-exit ramps, elevators, escalators, resting areas etc.

The trilogy of “Need – Development – Growth”, in relation to design and the retail sector, are inter-related and mutually dependent. With need follows development and with development growth occurs, leading to new needs being created. This
has been witnessed in the inter-relationship between architecture and the retail industry.

The future of these sectors indeed looks promising. With the retail sector flourishing, new design concepts being formulated and globalisation in full swing, we can definitely predict in the coming years, change-led-growth and development in both
retail and architecture.

Pushpendra N Sharma, a qualified architect, is the Founder and CEO of Mantra Consultants; a firm that specialises in real estate, architecture, interior designing, retail, franchising and mall-event management consultancy. Mantra Consultants is a
global alliance member of UK based Franchiseek ( a franchise and recruitment consultancy major.


One Response

  1. very interesting, but I don’t agree with you

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