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Naya Taneja

Naya Taneja

Hi, I’m Naya! I love experiential design, specifically in retail and hospitality. I am also very passionate about accessibility. I believe that my role in this profession is to help create built environments that can impact everyone, allowing each person to experience beautiful spaces in their own individual ways. Check out my website and Instagram for more of my work!

Sustainable and Accessible Retail Store

Brick and mortar retail stores will never go out of style. However, with our aging population, changes will have to be made in order to stay relevant and usable by the general public. One in five Canadians identify with having one or more disabilities, yet this demographic is almost always overlooked by designers. This pilot study demonstrates that it is possible to have a universally designed space that is dynamic and interesting. Furthermore, it is important to create inclusive and inviting retail spaces, so that everyone can have the experience of shopping.

Sustainable and Accessible Retail Store

Rationale and Design Narrative

The design honours the historic attributes of the existing building within the Distillery District. Thus, it follows a sustainable approach in the acceptance of it’s as-is condition, comparable to the full acceptance those with disabilities should feel in all public spaces. The user journey begins with the entry which includes a confrontational info desk so that occupants can easily find what they are looking for. Behind that is clothing merchandise, alternatively a catwalk. Adjacent to that is a cafe, to elevate the customer experience. The surrounding areas on the main level include other merchandise, one area raised slightly with ramps, and the other utilizing the space under the stairs. The private spaces are above and below the mezzanine, away from the line of sight, so that the focus is on the architectural elements throughout the main volume. These elements control sightlines, encouraging occupants to follow an accessible path of travel.

Design Connection to Research

One in five Canadians identify with having one or more disabilities. Numerous studies have shown that following the Ontario Building Code only meets the bare minimum in making spaces accessible - mainly only addressing mobility. Shopping creates a sense of identity and helps create one’s sense of self, which is why it is so important to ensure that retail spaces are universally designed. The design of this store addresses the four main disabilities: hearing, visual, mobility, and cognitive. There are clear and consistent sightlines throughout the space to aid those with hearing impairments and low vision. Included also for visual impairments are: audio merchandising, braille, tactile flooring, and low reflective surfaces. All circulation paths have the ability to accommodate two powered wheelchairs. In addition, wayfinding and signage include pictograms for cognitive disabilities. Lastly, there is a confrontational info desk where one can ask for help or a guide.

Character of Space

Sightlines have the ability to control circulation within a space. This project incorporates planar screening elements that are either confrontational or thresholds. These elements are placed strategically throughout the space to push occupants to move through the space in a specific way. The proposed circulation path is reminiscent of the Fibonacci Sequence. The sequence furthered the concept, and in turn strengthened the circulation patterns; something crucial in a retail environment. The space is meant to feel airy and open, creating a safe, warm, and inviting environment for its occupants. The culture within the store also has effects on the environment; the occupants being inclusive and energetic develops the character of the space in ways that the built environment simply cannot.

Program Consideration

This pilot study for an accessible and sustainable retail store has a variety of spaces to create a very multi-functional environment. There are three main sections of merchandise: skincare, clothing, and home goods. Each area is proposed to be leasable, in order to promote local companies in such a diverse district within the city. The building also contains a cafe, allowing for extra revenue to come into the facility. Contained within the site also is a classroom, maker studio, conference space, and photo studio. All of these spaces are able to be rented out to the community. Lastly, there is a surplus of circulation for those with various disabilities, and further allows a multi-use catwalk venue creating flexibility and interest in the space.

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