The rise of retail’s third-space storefronts

type - big idea
Big Idea
category - art
category - design
category - digital
sector - media & technology
Brands are commodifying outdoor space to create retail destinations that blend into the urban fabric while fostering play, exploration and community

Marsotto’s place to pause

Italian marble manufacturer Marsotto engaged Japanese design firm Nendo to create a shopfront so subtle that it blends into the building’s façade. The entrance to its Milan showroom is entirely hidden within a wall of Marsotto marble – the only distinguishing feature is how the wall appears to have been carved out, offering a seat to passing pedestrians.

According to Nendo, this subtle yet inviting recess was a purposeful part of it creating an exterior that anyone can engage with. ‘Because the traffic circle facing the showroom will soon be greened and turned into a small park, part of the façade was made into impromptu street furniture with a soft recess on it, in the hope that neighbours might sit as if on a bench and rest for a spell,’ the design firm notes.

% Arabica blurs streetscape boundaries

In response to ‘the dull layout of ordinary commercial streets that separates indoor private space and outdoor public space’, Blue Architecture studio has re-imagined the coffee experience for % Arabica customers with a window that opens up the coffee store to the local area. Spilling onto the street in Shanghai’s Xuhui district, the U-shaped glass storefront allows passers-by to glance through, step in to explore or take a seat.

In the words of Blue, the % Arabica space adds ‘thickness’ to the urban streetscape, blurring the distinction between the inner and outer space through the use of plants and continued seating. ‘The ideal urban interface [aims] to blur the boundary between inside and outside, private and public space,' reads a studio statement about the space. 'Coffee shops can be more than spaces that merely provide coffee for people. We hope that they are public spaces, like small parks, to suggest more communication and social interaction.'

Published by:

24 May 2021

Author: Kathryn Bishop and Savannah Scott

Image: Webring installed on [Anti]materia, the website of Doreen Rios by Sarah Friend


The Village by Anya Hindmarch, London

Anya Hindmarch goes local and leisurely

Opening in central London in spring 2021, The Village by Anya Hindmarch is the luxury accessories brand’s move into third-space retailing. Creating a hub of retail, hospitality and blank spaces for an ever-changing array of pop-ups and events, The Village offers a place for shoppers and the public to meander through, sip a cocktail, have their hair styled with friends or shop for the brand’s various collections.

For Hindmarch, The Village is about building a sense of community and localisation for the brand, instead of it having various global outposts with no engagement beyond the shopfront. It’s purposely high-low offer allows visitors to grab a humorous Hindmarch-themed cake or biscuit to go, or spend time discussing a bespoke handbag or creation. ‘It’s a place where we can talk really directly to our community and to our followers and to our customers. And, it can be ever-changing,’ explains Hindmarch.

Uniqlo’s post-shopping playscape

In Japan, fashion retailer Uniqlo is not only engaging with third-space storefronts but centring an entire shop on the idea of outdoor play and exploration. The Yokohama Bayside store is designed to entice families to spend the day visiting. ‘The whole roof was literally turned into a playground… People can bring along a picnic and eat lunch while overlooking the marina,’ explains Takahiro Kinoshita, group executive vice-president and creative director of Fast Retailing, Uniqlo’s parent company.

Highlights of the exterior include a colourful bouldering wall by Japanese playground equipment company Bornelund, slides, and a climbing frame for children, while a glass-topped area with seating provides a quieter spot to sit and enjoy the view. According to Kinoshita, this third-space strategy is all about making Uniqlo flagship stores must-visit spaces. ‘We know that people need a reason to visit a bricks-and-mortar store, so we want to make shopping a delightful experience,’ he adds.

‘[The Village] will be ever evolving and a place where we pour all of our creative energy and collaborate on the subjects that interest us’
Anya Hindmarch

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