The given situation was that a well done original structure from the late 1950’s over the decades was abandoned by the retailers, due to the building no longer suiting their corporate demands regarding retail space and delivery. The future of the neighborhood center was given from the public owner into private hands, a trend seen in communities all over the European continent. Design studies for preserving the original structure did not succeed due to the rigid requirements of the new generation of corporate chains. In close consulting with the city planning department, functional and formal guidelines were established to enable the client to maximize lot use and fulfill the requirements of the retailers. The clients on the other side of this public-private partnership committed themselves to an architectural design tailored to the neighborhood as opposed to the standardized corporate design. However, the budget was limited to the average corporate building type costs, which is economical through rigid standardization and mass production.
We created a durable structure, with a post and beam framework of concrete, tightening together the diverse formal and functional content. The rigid structure became economically competitive through 100 % prefabrication. The simple tectonical composition incorporates multi-purpose elements, like metal gratings which carry glass roofs, to shade the façade, and harmonize typical building type elements like shopping cart storage and utility windows. Similarly, the simple concrete beams at the base serve as much as protection for the façade, but even more as an informal offer to have a rest and sit in the façade, giving a sense of place. The pleasant offer to stay around is of tremendous social importance in this building type, but is most often degraded where the builders profit-seeking does not even allow for a bench to sit.
This project is a case study to reactivate the social and commercial benefits of an urban space in the midst of an existing late 1950’s neighborhood, as opposed to the decentralized big box stores in the urban periphery. Opposed to the concept of the common contemporary supermarket with a site-insensitive standardized design, this project, therefore, addresses the existing urban fabric first. It became a search for a structure that could fit itself within the existing social, urban and architectural surroundings.
The response about the finished project, from the people in the neighborhood who were actively engaged in convincing the city authorities in establishing a center again, was overwhelming. For both the first inhabiting generation and the new one following, a great advantage is not needing a car, which they either can’t drive, afford, or won’t put their emphasis on. They now can use the public transportation to go into the nearby city center for “lighter” shopping because they can accomplish the “heavier” grocery shopping nearby. During the construction supervision, we were told that the people couldn’t wait for the opening and the “luxury” to decide each day spontaneously what to cook, instead of deciding at least a week in advance when buying at the peripheral big box store.