Based in the heart of Grey Quarter in Newcastle City Centre, Grainger Market is a 19th century covered market hall home to over 100 small, independent businesses. Its importance to the local economy is paramount, and it provides a home for small garden centres, pubs, restaurants and DIY shops to name but a few.
One shop in particular has remained in place for over 20 years and is still open today. It has seen stock market crashes, renovations, Tory and Labour governments, and has weathered them all, leaving it as one of the oldest shops still operating today.
Finally, it is seeing its time in the sun.
Having championed the “zero-waste” movement since it opened, somewhat unoriginally named, “The Dried Fruit and Nut Store” invites punters to bring their own Tupperware or bags to refill their basic household supplies – from dried peaches to oats. Today, the “anti-single-use plastic” movement aspires to these same ideals, and, consequently, the shop is seeing more and more footfall.
In light of its new interest, the shop hopes to redesign itself, to shake itself from its 1990’s style and rebrand itself in line with this new trend. This paralleled perfectly with the theme of charette week – Highstreet – which explored the so-called ‘death’ of our highstreets in favour of online shopping. This provided the perfect opportunity to combine forces to create a new proposal for the shop in a week-long intensive charrette.
The brief from the client was to ensure that the proposal remained faithful to the Grainger Market aesthetic, modernised its shop front, and, most importantly, remained affordable. The client was particularly keen to see if we, as “innovative students”, could create a “gravity dispenser” – a refilling device that uses only gravity to operate – within a week, as the current technology in the shop comprises a bin full of produce and a shovel/spade-like tool to fill your bag with.
As such, at the start of the week, the charrette group divided into two groups, one concerned with the actual shop design and branding, and the other to attempt to create a new ‘gravity dispenser’. The client stipulated that we incorporate a cupboard unit in the design, having purchased them before charrette week.
The proposed solution rebranded the shop as ‘The Grainger Weigh’, a reference to ‘The Weigh House”, an adjacent store that has existed in Grainger Market since its creation. This remained a key principle for our proposal, and the final design ensured we use a colour and material palette that matched the existing stores in the market.
The outcome for the week was to create a proposal, and our gravity dispenser was merely a prototype, so it would be up to the client if they wanted to go ahead with the design. However, even if the design is not taken up by the client, undertaking a task to sensitively regenerate one of the longest surviving stores in Grainger market has wider implications than simply bringing the store’s décor into the 21st century. It is a key lesson in reinforcing the market’s status and importance as a cultural, heritage icon within the city, and highlights how it is still cared for. Significantly for us as students, by taking part in the design process, it naturally generates ideas of caring for the city that for many is only a temporary home. Similarly, by proposing a sensitive and positive design for one of the city’s great landmarks, we as students can begin to change the perception that we do not care for the city.
Newcastle is so much more than somewhere to simply get a degree and leave, it is one of the last surviving bastions of affordable and enjoyable life that also contains a plethora of beautiful art and architecture. Giving students engaging projects and tasks like this help us to realise the qualities of the city they study in, and truly appreciate it as a place to live.