Big Box retail is increasingly placed away from New Zealand’s small town centres, taking the life and community vitality of the centre with it. The town of Richmond called big box retail back into the main street, questioning how to maintain streetscape and commercial viability to both large and small tenancies. Big Box can entail up to 100m lengths of uninterrupted walls to the street, a scale and typology seemingly incongruous with a greengrocer or a provincial NZ townscape.
The solution places smaller tenancies of mixed use retail, hospitality, office and service space to the public edges of a 13,000m2 development. Fine grained 2 storey buildings repair the existing streetscape and extend new pedestrian verandahs and smaller tenancies to mask larger volumes.
Big Box retail notionally exists only at their entry door, concealed elsewhere behind high function smaller tenancies and the public edge: a green grocer, a cafe, a sushi restaurant, a bakery, a shoe shop….
Small scale occupation is privileged over large, enabling a more intimate and community focused retail experience whose articulated ground plane affords opportunity to enter, sit, stop, coffee, watch or shop. Each is provided with elemental componentry at a human scale; ground-breaking seismic technology coupled with locally designed and manufactured timber structural systems protect and add material warmth while transparency articulates the interior retail environment to the street.
Big Box retail now exists in Richmond, but it acts to support (rather than compromise) smaller scaled shops and community use. The street lives.