Retail Architect | What is Destination Design?

What is a Destination Design? What is a Retail destination? The Apple dictionary defines a definition as follows:

destination  |ˌdestəˈnā sh ən|


the place to which someone or something is going or being sent : a popular destination for golfers.


being a place that people will make a special trip to visit : a destination restaurant.
ORIGIN late Middle English : from Latin destinatio(n-), from destinare ‘make firm, establish.’ The original sense was [the action of intending someone or something for a particular purpose,] later [being destined for a particular place,] hence (from the early 19th cent.) the place itself.

Obvious. But when a retail architect is designing in the context of created places, what makes a great retail destination, and what makes people want to go there, stay there and be there?

  • People

People want to got to a retail destination because other people, many other people, go there. People want to be there, like to be there. The primary reason people go to successful retail destinations is because other people go there – because crowds of people go there. People go to watch people, be with people, meet people.

People are the single most important form of entertainment. The best movie watched in an empty theater falls flat. An exceptional meal in an empty restaurant is not enjoyed but endured. A crowded theme park frustrates, but an empty park is no fun at all. An empty resort is spooky and odd, and an empty urban town center is frightening and perhaps dangerous. One traveling to a resort seeking serenity will likely do so only if others have previously done so and vouched for the quality of the experience.

  • Choices

People go to a retail destination because they have chosen to do so. This is at the essence of the definition of destination design. They could easily choose to go elsewhere. Whether traveling on foot, by car or by plane, they have embarked on a trip with the express purpose of ending up in a specific destination. Once they have decided to make a trip, they have choices – they could just as easily walk, drive or fly to any number of other destinations. It it therefore imperative that a retail destination provide potential guests with reasons for it to be their choice. A retail architect must create a place with wide appeal, unique experiences, and perceived value or cache.

  • A Place People Want to Be

People choose to travel to a destination because they want to be there. Great retail destinations have a magical quality. While one considers pragmatic concerns, such as travel time, cost, parking and ease of use, when selecting a destination it is the magic of a place that attracts the masses. The most successful destinations often are often very difficult to use, in part because they are so successful. Venice, Italy, is horribly crowded, difficult to access and very expensive; yet magical and one of the earth’s most visited destinations. Venice has magic – an attraction difficult to define, yet remarkable to experience.

When pragmatic issues are equal, and often when they are not, people will decide to go where they most want to be.

  • Entertainment

Because people desire to be in a place resplendent with magical quality, entertainment is a common thread in most great destinations. Whether the destination is an active participant in the entertainment, such as a theme park with its shows and rides, a cultural center with movies, plays or a concerts, or a passive participant, such as a retail center with fabulous architecture, people watching, shopping and dining, the entertainment provides an element of escape. A successful retail architect knows escape from the cares and concerns of everyday life creates magic.

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Brent Thompson is expert in destination design: the master planning and architectural design of public places, including retail, resort, entertainment and town center destinations. Thompson has over twenty-five years of experience in architecture, concept design, master planning and urban design for a wide range of domestic and international clients, including every major entertainment company, with a rich portfolio of projects in the Middle East, Asia, Europe and North America. Thompson’s history is unique among architects. He was educated traditionally as an architect and planner, a course he followed in his first ten years of practice. He further had opportunity to live and work in Prague, where he was a founding partner of Architects’ Atelier Praha and refined his theoretical approach to architectural design. Upon his return to the United States two years later, he began a five year parenthesis, designing entertainment venues for most of Hollywood’s major studios. Entertainers are students of human psychology, and expert at the idioms of story telling and metaphors. Hollywood is extremely pragmatic in its approach, and places great emphasis on the “guest experience,” and Thompson emerged from that time a unique designer. Though now running a more traditional architecture and planning practice, he has learned to combine design theory with entertainment based pragmatism. His projects are media rich, multi-layered, metaphorical, expressive and culturally relevant. Perhaps more important, they work. He has throughout his varied career been involved in the pragmatic study of the way people use spaces, and the knowledge gained is the basis for each of his designs. He has further learned how to hear the vision of clients and to translate their vision into reality. Specialties Expert in retail, town center, resort, mixed-use, urban design and public space master planning and architectural design

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