Cooper Joseph Studio renovate and extend shopping centre in order to create a local landmark and boost economic growth
Nothing is perhaps as quintessential and ubiquitous as the American suburban shopping centre. Originally constructed in 1957 by the current owner's father, this retail centre was not living up to its potential economically, nor had it continued to be a vital part of community life. The client wanted to increase its financial capability and at the same time make it a landmark architecturally. In 2002, Cooper Joseph Studio completed a façade upgrade. Though a modest intervention in terms of cost, it achieved its goal. The rental prices rose while maintaining full occupancy, the neighbourhood enjoyed higher quality shops, and everyone now uses this building as a destination for shopping and gathering, as it is a point of distinction.
Building, literally and figuratively, on their success, the architects were asked to work on a second project in 2010 on the same site. Renovations and additions added 13,500 sq ft to the 25,000 sq ft building. Work included lighting upgrades, new striping and landscaping of the car park and other site improvements. Cooper Joseph Studio stated that: "Adding to our own work from 2002 is an honour and a reflection to our on-going relationship with the owner with whom we have worked on other projects as well."
Although, given that the look of the centre is specific and complete, adding such a large volume was architecturally quite challenging. They created a unified building using a limited palette of materials, careful massing and a mix of new variations relating to the innovative, undulating façade treatment of aluminium banding. The concept of the original design involved using a series of waving bands of aluminium to make a modern cornice above the shop fronts. With a second storey, a system integrates the bands and adds an exciting series of new elements to the vocabulary, all while keeping the massing simple. The curved cornice shape gives it integral structural stability, allowing the architects to use very little material. It is made of 1/8 inch-thick bands of anodized aluminium bent over brackets. The new steel frame addition is skinned in corrugated aluminium panels (20' long and 3' wide). Mitered corner panels imbue a strong sense of massing and enclosure.The front façade is richer in concept by the use of perforated, corrugated aluminium over the upper storey windows as a sunscreen and to shield night-time office workers from the street.
Inside, the lobby, fire stairs and other accent walls are saturated in orange providing warmth against the cool metal. The signage panels appear dynamic in their reflection of changing sunlight by day and scintillating by night. Attached as single applied forms and letters to the undulating aluminium panels, the new signage is easily changed as leases renew. The store identities have a consistent letter height but the font/logo varies as required. Cooper Joseph Studio met with tenants individually to ensure satisfaction with changes and to fulfil the criteria of corporate identity.
The costs were approximately $2M or $150 per sq ft, including site improvements, landscape, and equipment as well as replacement of some existing lighting and signage. The project was completed in two phases. The first in 2002 and the second in the autumn of 2010.
The increased rentals and sales will offset the costs of the renovation, though the American commercial real estate remains challenging. But, perhaps more important for the architects than the project's financial success is that the village, the local mayor and the tenants all consider the centre a local landmark and it has helped foster a rejuvenation of what was an ailing central business zone.
In the commercial real estate market, timing is everything. A compressed schedule was part of the integrated architectural and construction process. Cooper Joseph Studio worked closely with the contractor to offer the owner materials and products that could be coordinated for maximum efficiency in delivery and installation. The severe downturn in the American economy threatened the project, yet the owners held fast to their desire to bring other uses requiring larger footprint to this underserved area. Upper level spaces can be leased to uses such as community doctors and for children’s indoor play spaces.
The strength of the final project is not just in the building design but the integration of extensive landscaping. Trees, native plantings and 'xeriscape' requiring no irrigation are part of a strong storm water management programme. Lighting is more efficient due to the high albedo quality of the façade. The aluminium is helpful to conserve energy during hot summer months.