Recently our team at LS3P has been working on the design of a large mixed-use building on Upper Meeting Street. The project is predominantly residential, but it also has a large amount of ground floor retail and amenity space for the residents.
While reviewing the current facade design I commented that the retail storefronts seemed like they were missing something. I couldn't quite put my finger on it. They didn't have the character of a vibrant urban street.
So I did some homework this weekend.
I try to get my design energy going by looking at examples of existing design. In Charleston, we are fortunate to be surrounded by a ton of great architecture and design.
And what better place to look at retail storefronts than King Street.
Here are some of the pictures from my scavenger hunt, with some simple observations.
Urban storefronts tend to be transient in nature. As the businesses behind them change, so do the storefronts
A good storefront will respond to the architecture of the building above.
But also have the freedom to deviate and have its own personality and flair.
Storefronts tend to be more open and glassier than the buildings above.
And some are very glassy. This is beneficial to the businesses beyond, but also helps activate the streetscape.
Storefronts tend to use materials that are softer and more delicate than the buildings above.
You will also find a higher level of detail. This is important because this is the part of the building that most people will experience.
A good storefront will often be recessed at the doorway. This allows space for the doors to swing and a place for people to hang out before joining the sidewalk traffic.
Signage, canopies and awnings are integral parts to the success of a storefront. These pieces convey the brand and also help to create a dynamic streetscape.
And some storefronts just know how to party!
Variety is also a critical component. Each one of these storefronts was different. That is what gives a city like Charleston so much character.
These little photo shoots really help me to see the city.
It makes me stop and soak it all in. Hopefully this has been helpful for my fellow urban designers. As always, I hope you will share this post with your buds.
Next week I'll be checking out the storefronts of Upper King Street.
Steve Ramos, AIA, LEED AP
Want to see more of Charleston's Famous King Street? Make sure to check out: