Look around you, the tools for inspiration are closer than you think. Ideas are always racing around in our brains but they come and go before we get a chance to act on them.
In the example of Top Ryde City travelator canopy, “When the idea came to me I started sketching. I wasn’t convinced and started to play with a 3D model concept but I was short on time. So I grabbed whatever was lying close by and attempted building a form. An orange, some chopsticks and a set of headphones were in sight, so they were used,” explains Anthony.
While it was a very crude model, it became the catalyst for alternative design concepts as the team bounced off each other’s thinking, instead of being buried with one person’s 3D modelling.
Collaboration creates an environment where ideas can be explored faster, mistakes are made more easily and innovation can take place. It makes us adjust our thinking to the other thinkers, and we are not bound by our own perceived limitations.
Sense of arrival plays a critical role in shopping centre design. Successful architectural statements create a presence through their scale and hierarchy. They can promote activity along its edges and become a meeting hub of the community. i2C were approached to design a unique suspended entry between an existing multi-level car park and a new fresh food precinct.
The brief was to create an iconic and bold entry statement for the Level 1 Fresh Precinct of Top Ryde City shopping centre. After a thorough analysis of the brief and the existing site conditions, our design team established four fundamental design objectives.
First and foremost, the architectural statement needed to provide shelter. The area of focus was located between two buildings, meaning it was exposed to the elements.
Secondly, the connection needed to create a sense of arrival to the mall. The link was seen as a new entry point to the centre, so a bold statement was important.
Thirdly, sight lines and way-finding into the mall were critical. The scale of the existing centre highlighted that a sense of direction needed to be considered.
Lastly, the statement needed to have an appropriate aesthetic for the existing architecture of Top Ryde City. It needed to acknowledge the architectural context of the centre.
THE RESPONSIVE DESIGN APPROACH
With the user in mind, our vision was to create an innovative new experience for the customer as they travel from the car park into the shopping centre. This became our concept vision for the project which needed to be translated through the design.
We understood that there were various approaches to solve the design challenge, and created three unique architectural concepts that satisfied the design objectives and were each distinctly different.
The design of the three concepts were based on two fundamental principles (see sketch below):
1. The travelator canopy was to span between the facades. This ground floor below is an active lane way and an appropriate response to this was required;
2. The existing geometry of the centre informed where the connection would maximise sight lines and enhance the sense of arrival into the fresh food precinct.
The first concept looked at utilising a ribbon element that adapted according to its required function.
The second concept proposed a tetrahedral structure that suspended from the floors above.
The third concept looked at a spanning steel cables between the facades, with tensile fabric draped over to create the enclosure.
All three concepts and the design processes that lead to them were presented. After thorough analysis of the outcomes, benefits and projected costs, the third concept using tensile fabric was selected.
A number of fabricators were approached to engineer and build the concept Ronstan were selected as they shared our enthusiasm for the project. Initial form studies and renders considered draping the tensile fabric over the support cables. The outcome was architecturally bland – it was faceted, condensed and lacked liveliness.
We were frustrated, communication in the office broke down and we didn’t speak to each other for a week. We were confused and started questioning why we went down this path. We still believed that the concept had merit, but we needed to reconsider our approach.
We went back to the basics of the concept, the fundamental characteristics of the material and our clients brief “to think out of the box and be bold.” This step was critical in getting us back on track.
Continual 3D modelling allowed us to understand the natural curvature of the material, also known as “necking.” This property was embraced as an important element of the design. We removed the supporting cables, which allowed necking to occur and enhanced the sculptural form. The cables were reintroduced to the exterior, and their cross sectional alignment altered to improve the dynamic nature of the form.
Further design workshops and debates enabled us to test and refine certain aspects of the concept. Different colour combinations of fabrics were explored to test their visual effect. It was decided to go with a two colour approach, with a swirl pattern to enhance the visual perception of space and give the illusion of a shorter distance.
The fire performance of the fabric was tested to be sure that it was fit for the purpose. Haigen even tried to ignite the material in the lane behind the office to convince ourselves that it was the right choice. The fabric was a key component in the design, the aesthetic would have been compromised by the presence of an elaborate fire sprinkler system suspended above the canopy if the material didn’t meet fire safety standards.
During material testing we noticed that the fabric had good light transmission properties. We embraced this and came up with the idea of projecting animated lighting onto the surface.
Brett wanted to create a vastly different customer experience from day and night. “During the day the sleek curves and sculptural form creates a contrast to the surrounding building. In the evening the projected lighting transforms the canopy into a colourful and bright spectacle.”
Our models, debates, designs and vision have now come to fruition in the colourful travelator canopy entrance, creating a bold sense of entry into the shopping centre. 151 Property were a great client to work with on this, they were willing and receptive to some of our unconventional ideas. This latest phase in the Top Ryde City shopping centre refurbishment has been a great reminder to our team of why collaborative design is fundamental to the creative process. Winim along with Mainbrace and their great teams were vital in delivering this successful project.
Collaboration can spawn better ideas, because our thought processes have perspective, they are constantly being tested, challenged and adjusted by all other inputs, not just our own.
So get the design out there, no matter how crude you communicate it, because you just may inspire someone else’s thinking.
View Anthony’s profile here.
Associate Director Manager NSW, QLD