I have first hand experience shopping in districts like the one above. My reaction – temporary paralysis in the face of immense opportunity – is always the same. American City Planner, William Whyte famously observed that what attracts people most is other people, which leads me to ask, has he defined a universal retail design strategy? Is it the default blueprint for markets like this one in Chennai, and more importantly can designers improve this retail experience without destroying it? How?
India’s answer to the western style shopping mall, touted as “international best practice” housed in local identity, is considered by many to be an improvement. Is it really, or does it rather encourage western style problems, not the least being lack of parking in an increasingly mobile country? All very big questions. Maybe the answer is to think small. If I were designing for a retailer in the Chennai people scape, I might ponder the best way of functioning in, and formulating an identity from, my small piece of the chaos. The row of mannequins on the left starts to suggest potential.