With more and more people shopping online, it isn’t surprising that our high streets are becoming ghost towns. UK retail lost 106,000 jobs in the past 3 years (Simpson, 2019). We’re all guilty of choosing to shop online in our pyjamas at home rather than go into an actual store on the high street, and why not? Why would we want to face the reality of walking along a busy street, only to wait in long queues when we have the whole warehouse stock of our favourite shops at out fingertips in the comfort of our own homes, delivered straight to our doors?
Every time we walk into a shop, we feel an emotion. Maybe you don’t feel ‘cool’ enough, maybe you feel excited because that top you’ve been looking at all month is finally on sale or maybe you just feel bored. Whatever that response is, there is something about the space you have just entered which has stimulated an emotional reaction inside of you. This emotional response towards the high-street is what our charette focused on, we created our own Emotion Alley.
Each pair was given a shop in Newcastle to research, analyse their emotional response and create a space portraying this exact feeling. For my project I had a traditional men’s suit shop which made me feel sentimental and quite out of place. It was the dark wood floor, the obviously outdated style of shopping, but the somewhat charming personal experience which put me in a state of sentiment. First things first, how can you possibly design ‘sentimental’ into a space? How can you create a 3-D building, a modelled form which says ‘sentimental’?
We began sketching, modelling and finding precedents, but everything just felt too rigid. We stopped thinking about being architects and started trying to be artists. It was after many hours on Pinterest, I couldn’t shake this generic photograph of an antique jewellery box with the classic curved corners and wooden drawers. This became the base of our project. We would make this jewellery box into a space, exploding with all things that make us feel sentimental. We had shards of a grandfather clock falling through a half-opened drawer (was it a door or a window? does it matter?) and a balancing chandelier just resting on the corner.
Our sentimental space shared a street with emotions comprising of ‘self-conscious’, ‘glamorous’, ‘conflicted’ and ‘proud’. Each model expressed its emotion using only cardboard and coloured paper. The final exhibition was a vibrant, insightful and unique installation responding to the current state of Newcastle’s high-street.
So how does the high-street make you feel?
Simpson, E. (2019). High Street: How many UK shops have closed?. BBC News, [online] p.1. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-49349703 [Accessed 3 Nov. 2019].