The Experimental design of three new venues

With consumption suffering in the downturn, providing experiences is what it’s all about – for both the leisure industry and stores trying to tempt people back. Clare Dowdy goes in search of music, cookery and sporting thrills at three new venues

Imagine sitting around a dinner table with the legendary album designers Sir Peter Blake, Roger Dean and Aubrey Powell, as they wax lyrical about creating iconic 1960s covers, like Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. This is what Land Design Studio has magicked at the newly opened British Music Experience at London’s The O2. Land has taken individually recorded interviews with these designers and transformed them into a discussion on rock art. It’s just one of the British Music Experience’s Table Talk exhibits, where video recordings are played on a table top, with pictures of key exhibits passing over the screen.

Land’s clever marrying of content with experience is not only highly engaging, it taps into consumers’ need for value-added leisure, particularly in these straitened times. According to The Communications Agency’s recent survey, ‘From Crunch to Crisis/ Impacts on Consumer Attitudes and Leisure Behaviour in 2009 and Beyond’, ‘There’s a widespread determination to continue to invest time in and enjoy the leisure activities that really matter’.

The research suggests that consumers are after three things: shared experiences as social currency; self-expression through creativity and learning; and a drive to wellbeing through health and fitness. At the same time, 64 per cent of the survey’s 1000 respondents say they’re shopping less overall.

So with consumption suffering, it’s time for operators to beef up their offers, and accept that while sales may be down, there are still opportunities for brand-building. Retail designers have been talking about experience for some time. Now a cooking destination from Jamie Oliver, a fitness offer by Adidas, and the British Music Experience, are taking it to a new level. As David Judge of Judge Gill, whose client is Adidas, says, ‘Brands are moving from making stuff and flogging it, to helping and servicing people, and transforming their lives.’British Music ExperienceThe O2 in Greenwich, London, by Land Design Studio

British Music Experience, which is set up as a charitable trust chaired by promoter Harvey Goldsmith, charts the history of British popular music.

Land creative director Peter Higgins said to his client, ‘The hardest thing we’ve got is a ten-year-old girl who thinks there are three bands in the world, and a Led Zeppelin fan who thinks there’s one.’

Higgins has got round this by using digital media to tell stories in layers, appealing to a range of intellects. So as well as the Table Talk displays (pictured above), there is what Higgins calls the ‘digital unlocking of tangible objects on display’. Visitors can choose how much data they get on the museum’s donated exhibits, such as David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust costume or the trumpet Humphrey Lyttelton played on VE Day.

Meanwhile, visitors can sing along in a vocal studio, or learn dances including the hand jive, in a specially designed booth. The 2000m2 museum is in competition with ‘the PC in your bedroom’, says Higgins, but he hopes this dark, clubby atmosphere will win the day as a real-time experience with real people. •


Battersea, London, by Martin Brudnizki, with store branding by Williams Murray Hamm and kitchenware branding by Pearlfisher

Martin Brudnizki spent six months working on a fictitious site before Recipease opened this March. It’s all about preparing your own meals, or picking up something that’s been made in the on-site kitchen. Either way, the actual cooking is done at home.

The front half of the space is given over to conventional retail – ready-prepared meals, nice food and a new range of kitchenware called Jme, branded by Pearlfisher. Beyond that is the main focus of the store – a big, square cooking station where a real-live chef talks eight or so customers through preparing a dish. At the back are curry and pizza bars, where you get to roll out the dough, for example, and choose your toppings following a recipe card. At both the learn-to-cook station and the bars, all the ingredients are prepared before your arrival and laid out in their appropriate quantities.

Brudnizki says of the design, ‘With Jamie [Oliver], it’s all about the provenance and rusticness, but it’s a food shop so I didn’t want it to look dirty or rough.’ There’s sandblasted, oiled oak panels on the walls, off-white terrazzo floor tiles reflect the light, and a pale ceiling. ‘The warm, rich and dark colours make it more atmospheric than a normal shop,’ he adds. A Brighton outlet follows in June. AdidasChamps-Élysées, Paris, by Judge Gill

The reworking of this Adidas flagship introduces the MiCoach concept to France. MiCoach, which first appeared in Beijing at the end of last year, is about sporting and physical performance. ‘You test your own sporting capabilities and compare them with Adidas’s top athletes’ data,’ says an Adidas spokeswoman.

The designers have created a welcoming, bright, curvilinear space with user-friendly touch screens covering about 10 per cent of the total store. Here, customers can test their core skills, like balance, agility and running speed.

The idea is that friends or other shoppers can cheer you on. Judge Gill co-founder David Judge uses the term ‘limerance’, which he describes as a warm sense of shared pride. Customers can then register, go online, get a training and diet regime, and return some months later to see if they’ve improved.

Interestingly, there is intentionally very little in the way of a link to the Adidas product. ‘If it’s a good experience, it should feel like giving, not selling,’ says Judge. •

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