In the face of adversity

Retail design built bright and bold whilst responding to natural disasters

by Amy 28 October 2011
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    Weston Williamson were announced the winners of an international architecture competition to design the new Digicel Experience Store in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince. The competition concept was developed as part of the continuing works to build for the future of Haiti after the devastating earthquake in January 2010.

    The brief was to create an innovative and fresh approach to the design of a new, stand-alone mobile communications retail store, where the design embodies the spirit of growth and regeneration. The store's colour is derived from the Digicel branding. The iconic red logo is a major feature in the Haitian advertising portfolio and can be seen throughout the capital of Port-au Prince.

    Weston Williamson designed the store to feature a bold use of the brand's colour and to create a vibrant contrast to the store's landscape. A key part of the design was the importance of communicating the Digicel identity during this time of regeneration. The Digicel logo now appears in white and has been successfully integrated with the slatted aluminium envelope, creating high visibility from the primary approach roads.

    Weston Williamson's aim was not to overcomplicate the form of the building, but instead use the façade structure to animate the design. The linear frontage has been designed to allow efficient solar shading and provides a strong, durable skin to the structure. The winning proposal has views into and out of the store, which are controlled by the spacing between the aluminium slats and, depending on how a person is orientated to the building, they may appear transparent or opaque.

    Technically, the design had to meet a stringent brief to resist earthquakes and seasonal hurricanes prevailing in the region, whilst also responding to high levels of humidity and intense rainfall. The super-structure and modular cladding was developed and manufactured off-site to enable a rapid and controlled procurement process.

    The building was constructed on site with the assistance of local skilled labour. From its inception, the project design and construction was incredibly fast with the competition to completion date in a matter of months. The new store opened to the public in January 2011.


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