By Ross Edwards RIBA B. Arch (Hons), Director, CAD Architects
There is no doubt that high street retailing has been under considerable pressure over recent years.
According to a report by PwC, last year an average of fifteen high street stores were closing down each day. As well as the current economic climate and its impact on consumer spending, high street stores have been facing tough competition from the big out of town retail parks and from online shopping.
It is possible to buck this trend. However, to succeed in town centre locations, retailers need to offer shoppers a unique experience that they cannot find elsewhere and they also have to be exceptional at what they do.
A commercial architecture project that demonstrates this kind of thinking in action is the successful development of Lemon Street Market in Truro.
When the Hendra family acquired Lemon Street Market, the fabric of the building was very run down. It had been operating for years under an old corrugated tin roof. CAD Architects were appointed as commercial architects for the transformation of the building design.
The Hendra family had a clear vision of what they wanted to achieve: to create a retail destination that would be home to some of the most distinctive independent retailers in the county, offering visitors to Truro a unique shopping experience was unlike any other that they might find in the local area. This gave this commercial architecture project a strong sense of direction and provided a springboard for the ideas that we created.
For the building design, we decided to keep the slightly industrial feel of the original building, but within this structure we designed a thoroughfare market with a mezzanine floor above that would house an art gallery and restaurant.
For the principal elevations, we retained the original stone walls at ground floor level, but then used weatherboards on the upper floors, reaching up to the gabled roof. The weatherboards were painted blue and this meant that the style, shape and colour of the exterior were totally original for any building in the centre of Truro. This was an important aspect of the building design as it helped to communicate the unique and quirky nature of the businesses located within Lemon Street Market.
The way that we used light in the building was crucial to its success. The old building had been rather dark and uninviting. For the new building design, we installed large glazed panels that stretched up into the gables of the building. These flooded the interior with natural light.
In addition, a lantern skylight was installed that ran the full length of the roof to help produce an amazingly bright and airy interior space. This sense of light was accentuated by the use of white walls and ceilings, natural materials such as pine hand rails, and glass panels along the balconies and staircases, so that the flow of natural light was not interrupted.
This approach to building design has created a highly practical and versatile space for the market’s businesses to operate within, but one that feels very different from the typical indoor market or small shopping centre.
Lemon Street Market is now home to an amazingly diverse range of top quality independent operators, including a fine art gallery, a choice of cafes and restaurants, artisan bakery, jewellery store, speciality food shop, design and print store, and even a specialist barber’s shop.
The market has become a very popular local meeting point for friends to gather over a coffee or a meal before going on to browse the various businesses on offer. People often comment that it is a great place to meet because they find that the atmosphere within the market is lively and busy but also relaxed.
I believe that the commercial architecture has played a big part in this. The building design has created a space that feels bright, sunny and welcoming – a very different atmosphere from the typical shopping centre with its fluorescent lighting. It is therefore a space where shoppers are happy to linger for a long period of time. The owners have aptly described Lemon Street Market as ‘an oasis in the centre of Truro.’
We were delighted that this project was joint winner of the Cornish Buildings Group Award for best commercial building. What has been even more satisfying is seeing how the businesses located at Lemon Street Market have thrived in this unique retail space, and how the market has been able to carve out a very successful niche for itself in challenging economic times.