Focus on recovery and renewal

Monika

Contact Monika Laudencka-Sobik, Director
monika.laudencka-sobik@benoy.com

Business confidence may be fragile in these extraordinary times but here at Benoy, we are focusing on helping our clients to be ready for the ‘new normal,’ through creativity, collaboration, innovation and smart use of technology in our designs. Here Monika Laudencka-Sobik, Director in our London studio, explores some key themes driving urban design in the post-Covid age.

Return to Design Thinking
Parc central

COVID-19 has eliminated barriers to change and forced us to rethink how we shape our built environment. We must now consider what we really want from the spaces in which we live and work and play.

As designers, we look confidently to the future, focusing on the values we want to preserve and speaking loud and clear about the new paradigms framing the built environment: regenerative design, the march of technology and data and the need for smarter and more affordable buildings.

We have a once in a lifetime chance to take the lead and to rethink our urban environments. Below, we’ve shared some of our ideas, research and thinking for the New Normal’.

Escape Big Box Retail

Big Retail — mixing it differently

Big Retail is moving into a new era where success will be reliant on a few key factors: a powerful retail mix, a fusion of programme components, honest and well-executed designs, and a strong sense of community and place. 

Resilience & Reinvention
We believe in the resilience of the retail sector. Despite being hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis, the smartest operators will find a way to re-invent and re-position their assets. The combination of smart data and digital engagement strategies will also see the buying habits of customers evolving to drive both online and off-line retail spend.

Flexible & Adaptable
Just as the department store model needed to fundamentally rethink its format and purpose, big-box assets will increasingly look to deliver something different to the high street. A collective resilience of leading brands, increasingly flexible and adaptable leasing structures and emerging technologies will re-shape these assets. We also expect more modular construction coming into play to speed up the construction process. The rapid growth of smart building technologies is also being used to help sustain a healthy environment.

Urban Curated Districts
Here at Benoy, we design large-scale retail projects as urban districts, with open streets, terraces, gardens and parks. A successful concept will rely on a series of key ingredients: a carefully curated retail mix; bespoke and local food and beverage offers; multi-generational residential; workplace, leisure and hotel, all aligned to the local community and set within well designed buildings and public spaces.

Authenticity & Social Responsibility
We are seeing a big shift away from sterile and often bland retail mall environments, to more authentic spaces that have character and are relevant to their local community.

The lockdown has seen a ‘return to local’ approach flourish. People are seeking out closer community bonds, better work-life balance and are supporting more local businesses.

The renaissance of the high street

Momentum has been building for some time in the UK towards high street regeneration and local urban renewal with the future of retail’ very much at the centre of discussion.

COVID-19 has now forced the issue even further, challenging us to reimagine the traditional high street where typically poor quality stock generates limited revenue and is bound by strict planning regulation.

Retail Responding to the New Normal
One of the big drivers for change is the anticipated shift to more home-working or local working. It is likely we will see workplaces de-centralised and re-appearing in lower cost areas, helping to stimulate local economies. 

Return to Local & Rise of Community
The lockdown has seen a return to local’ approach flourish. People are seeking out closer community bonds, better work-life balance and are supporting more local businesses. As a result, new tenants will appear, seeking a new typology of space, be it a warehouse-style cluster or urban street-edge retail.
The high street will need to be reimagined as social space, returning to its role as a local community hub – more experience-oriented and people-focused, with benches and trees bike lanes, events, pop-ups and pocket parks to encourage people to come and to stay.

Curated Collective Business Model
Instead of operating in the manner of a typical siloed highstreet, the acute challenges for retail force a more inventive and creative approach. Retailers can band together under the banner of a collective high street,
represented by a website that encourages digital as well as physical visits. With strength in numbers, the collective can launch street parties, have themed events and shopfronts and even encourage locals to crowdsource the mix of a vacant unit.

Future Regeneration
This transformation of the high street and the emergence of thriving micro-communities and their halo’ effect, will work together to support the wider regional regeneration.

Renaissance of the high street

We see the COVID-19 pandemic as a springboard for transformative and lasting change to our built environment.

191219 Sustainability Axo

Sustainable design

As a result of lockdowns around the world, we have experienced and witnessed demonstrative change in our environment.

Air in our cities is cleaner, canals and waterways are clearer and our streets and skies are calmer. We can no longer ignore our impact on the environment and climate. Now is the time for real change and lasting
improvements.

Industry Change Ahead
There is risk and cost involved in the adoption new methods and the construction industry has notably been slow to adapt, but the
change we have long wanted to happen is now the change needed for the industry to survive. We must design and deliver better buildings to sustain healthy living and to promote wellbeing.

RetroFirst & Circularity
With retail footprints reducing, decreased demand for office space (due to greater home working) and the general shift from city to local, we anticipate an increase in vacant inner city space and assets. As a first
approach, we must consider the potential for re-use and retrofit over demolish and rebuild for huge embodied energy savings. Where
repurposing isn’t possible, we consider what can be salvaged, reused and recycled as part of a circular economy approach.

Creating A Compelling Vision
Creating a strong, compelling vision for a development, regeneration scheme or urban renewal program will be essential to deliver long term value. A well-crafted strategy will enable developers to share their vision,
communicate a sense of place and context, and create a strong purpose. This approach will be essential in order to demonstrate a
good understanding of local assets and how they can be leveraged to drive urban regeneration.

Changing Behaviours & Expectations
A generational shift towards more ethical and sustainable consumption has long been on the rise. With the anthropogenic impact more
apparent than ever, we expect a greater demand for sustainable living and working.

Collaborative Thinking
We see the COVID-19 pandemic as a springboard for transformative and lasting change to our built environment. Working collaboratively with other designers, engineers, ambitious clients and innovative thinkers we can collaborate to create and deliver better buildings for a better world.