A retail architect is a professional who designs and often also supervises the construction or renovation of commercial properties. There are a lot of different possibilities for people with this expertise. Some design shopping malls and grocery stores, while others organize stand-alone store renovations and expansions; some are in charge of entire retail complexes and developments, though they can also be retained by conglomerates to design stores and storefronts in locations across the globe. Like any architect these people are usually trained first and foremost in building design and engineering. The retail aspect of their job usually also demands a consideration of specific usage, however, particularly where clientele are concerned, and architects often spend as much time planning for staff efficiencies as working to maximize ease of use for customers. In this respect their job is often two-fold: a sound structure plus maximized sales and useable store space. Architects usually work really closely with designers and construction personnel before the space is finished.
Core Job Responsibilities
In general, an architect is a person who designs buildings or other structures for human dwelling or occupancy. A specifically retail architect is someone who specializes in designing or redesigning buildings or spaces within buildings for commercial purposes. Some retail-focused professionals also design exterior and surrounding features of buildings, such as parking lots.
During design and construction, the architect’s main focuses are usually accessibility and productivity. He or she must design with two groups in mind — the staff and the clients. These two groups of people use the same space simultaneously, but for different purposes. Their needs, preferences, and attitudes regarding that space can greatly differ.
Planning for Multiple Uses and Purposes
With regard to clients, the architect considers how to employ space so that it maximizes sales. He or she may consider factors such as flow and accessibility. A customer shopping in an airport with luggage has different needs than a customer at a jewelry kiosk in a mall, for instance. Comfort, ease of access, and visibility are also considerations.
It’s also important that the space be designed so that staff can perform their duties efficiently. In warehouse style businesses, for example, if the architect does not sufficiently space aisles, fork lifts may not be able to enter to stock materials. This will result in an excessive and inefficient use of labor. Specific circumstances also need to be accounted for. Industry specifics can also be decisive. Staff in industries such as grocery sales need temperature controlled environments, whereas those in department stores often require immense stocking and storage space. The architect must consider such details, and must know the industries served well enough to anticipate needs both major and minor.
Creating an Identity
Retail-focused architects can also help a company establish a visual identity by using unique materials to design a retail space, such as adding hardwood floors where tiles are normally used. Some professionals give stores themes that capitalize on the business’ specialty. Others use colors in significant places, such as the roof, so that people can readily identify a particular store’s location.
Trends and Opportunities for Creativity
Retail architecture, like other industries, has gone through a number of phases. In the 1990s, for instance, professionals in the United States experienced a decline in demand for their services due to the popularity of simple box building designs. Since the new millennium, architects are finding a renewed market base as more businesses attempt to develop significant visual identities. This provides the opportunity for creativity and market growth in many places around the world.
Related Design and Construction Jobs
A retail architect is sometimes included on teams with other professionals who are involved in the design and construction industry. The architect can often be an asset in securing bids and contracts for multi-purpose facilities, such as airports and urban shopping and dining areas. Clients of multi-purpose facilities often want to know that there is someone who specializes in retail architecture so that spaces allotted for those purposes will be utilized to their maximum potential.
Getting Started in the Field
This job generally has the same educational requirements as any other architecture job. Candidates need an undergraduate degree as well as a degree or certificate from an accredited architecture school. Licensure can vary by jurisdiction, but professionals often have to pass an exam before they can be certified to begin designing buildings of any sort. The discipline is often a complex one, with practitioners needing to focus not just on aesthetics but also on engineering. As such, strong math and physics skills are usually essential.