Floors and W&R in Africa magazine’s editor in chief, Marlene van Rooyen, recently interviewed Boogertman + Partners director, Dewar van Antwerpen, about the future of office and retail space. The award-winning architecture firm just developed and published two documents that will help developers as well as public and private professionals in the built environment navigate the changes in office and retail space.
“COVID-19 has changed the way offices and retail buildings will function. The first document was created to assist developers of commercial environments in bringing staff back into the office. There are a number of legal as well as health and safety parameters – ranging from 2m distancing rules to the protection that is required in offices. If you have workers who need to work on site, this document will guide them on how to get staff back into the office safely,” says Van Antwerpen.
Re-engaging retail spaces
Increasing the footfall in retail spaces is going to be challenging, says Van Antwerpen. Shopping centres are attractions – a place where community members gather – but the pandemic has led to a sharp decrease in numbers. Many consumers are opting for online shopping to stay safe, and shopping centre owners and tenants are feeling the pinch.
“Fewer people are going to shopping centres, and this will likely be the case for some time. There is also a psychological restraint against closed malls, with people preferring open retail environments, where they can drive right up to the store they want to go to. This has led to many vacant spaces in malls and questions as to what is going to be done with this space,” says Van Antwerpen.
A starting point is to gather information of the current spaces, so that clients can start looking into potentially refitting and repurposing the space for future uses. Boogertman + Partners has a programme that enables clients to get a better idea of the structure of their assets, as well as a programme that allows them to design the detail of the space.
“What we have found, is that there often isn’t data available on the layout of shopping centres. Our programme called KYA (Know your Asset) can deliver information about the layout of a store or mall, with a reasonable sense of immediacy. Armed with this information, a tenant or developer can start to look at the potential future uses of the space, for a tenant or shopping centre,” says Van Antwerpen.
Opening the conversation to address the future of retail spaces
The document that Boogertman + Partners published delves into the changes in consumer spending and the need to come up with solutions that can enhance opportunities within the exiting context of shopping centres.
“There are many possibilities for the future, with each shopping centre having unique and varied potential solutions. Unused space within shopping centres could be used for different things – such as a clinic, mid-life training or education opportunities for young people. Perhaps it can be used as temporary logistic and storage facilities.”
“There will be different responses, depending on the nature of each shopping centre. As designers and strategists, we need to rethink our spaces and continue to massage ideas for their future uses so that we can leverage the most opportunities for our clients,” says Van Antwerpen.
He concludes by saying that we’re going to be working and shopping differently, and that we need to find a solution together. “Collectively putting our minds to the problem will lead to a solution. Life as we know it has
changed; it’s time to become comfortable with our new normal and finding opportunities that will help us move forward successfully.”
Watch the interview with Dewar van Antwerpen!