In a bid to spice up the design aspect of our neighbourhoods’ retail landscape, urban development agency Atrium launched a contest earlier this year that called on designers to jazz up the windows and displays of local independent grocery shops. A bunch of rather unlikely partnerships have produced some very fruitful collaborations, introducing the notion of effective design to shop owners usually more occupied with the whole day to day running of your wee neighbourhood shop. We met up with some participating designers and the shopkeepers they partnered up with to get the lowdown on the whole shebang.
With 30 years of history under its belt, Coprima is a bit of an institution in the Flagey neighbourhood. “The Atrium initiative is a welcome opportunity for us to attract even more customers” the Yassine family says of the project. At the same time it gives three young interior architects, who all met at Brussels’ St Luc – Quentin Goffin, Amaury le Grelle and Cyril Falmagne – the chance to show us what they’re worth. “It’s really interesting to work on a project that is relevant for Brussels as a city but also for a small entrepreneur” they explain “…and we wanted to develop a module whose size is adaptable”. Their design is centred on a simple but efficient wooden structure. In order to be able to design something useful for the shopkeeper, the architecture threesome spent some time observing his working process: “Watching how they arrange things, we got quite inspired.”
Le Petit Marché
“It’s the first time I’ve had to design a storage system for this kind of shop” says Pauline Coudert, designer at .RAD PRODUCT, adding: “It was quite a challenge considering shop owner Agdaci Musa has 190 boxes to put outside his store each day.” Simplifying this process was Pauline’s mission: she designed a structure based on different modules on wheels, with each one capable of storing six to twelve different-sized boxes at a time. Not just practical, they’re also easy on the eyes. “It’s a great initiative that Atrium has launched here” explains the designer, ” …it makes you rethink a part of the city that is not necessarily very beautiful and adds a plus to the offerings of stores which might not have been in contact with design aspects before.”
Brussels-based architects Florence Beaurepaire and Camille Carpentier joined forces to develop a new storage design for Anjouf El Hassan’s grocery shop. Both share an interest in the architecture of public places and urban spaces, and they came up with the concept of a permanent shop display, an outside structure that is unfolded by the owner each morning. At nighttime the system, which is built using a combination of wood, metal and straps, stands folded together against the walls. “The size of the space Anjouf can use in front of his stop is rather big and that was quite a challenge” Florence explains, adding: “We wanted to design a system that allows him to put as many boxes as possible outside while letting enough room for the customers to have a close look at the vegetables.”
Jean-Baptiste Goetgheluck‘s thing is furniture design and when he heard about Atrium‘s project he was all ears: “It addresses an issue that often takes a back seat” he tell us. For grocery shop CAN, Goetgheluck designed a multi-functional shelf system with a sleek and modern look. “I wanted to create something that is useful at both day and night” the young designer explains. Taking his inspiration from the metal grids shop owner Can Coskun has been using for years, the new folding system serves as a storage tool during the day and as a window protector at night. “I hope this is something that will be used not only at CAN, but in more and more shops throughout the city”, he adds for ambitious effect.
Hamid Usman has run his little grocery shop for five years now and although it’s located in the fashionable Dansaert area, it never occurred to him to bring the place up to speed with its more design-minded neighbours. Until now. “I think this initiative could really spark some attention and attract new customers” he tells us. His design partner, product designer and interior architect Danny Venlet took up the challenge and came up with a rather original idea: an outdoor exhibition table that displays art pieces at night when the shop is closed. “I think the visual problem in the city is more about the time when the stores are not open,” Venlet explains, adding “and I did not want to develop just another shelf system, that’s kind of boring”. And it’s true, his project is probably the most original of the lot, putting art at the heart of the concept.