A Breath of Fresh Air

by Bruce Barteldt
Apr. 29, 2019 | Back To Explore

After evaluating several relevant design competitions and other thought leadership opportunities that might inspire a compelling ReThink for Little’s Retail Practice, we ultimately determined that none of the existing alternatives would enable us to push the envelope and be something that would enable us to mine for breakthough ideas. So a core team of James Farnell, Robert Oppenheimer, Daniel McBride, Jason Richardson, Jason Bizarro (and dozens more from around the practice) took the lead with fleshing out a concept whose seed-germ is based on the fact that the Retail Practice does both retail stores and commercial centers. Although both of these business sectors have similar challenges, developers and retailers have very diverse drivers for their success. We asked ourselves, “How can we solve for both simultaneously?”

Air is a portable Pop-Up park. Both communities and developers can work with Air to set up for a week or six months. While an array of retailers/brands are “built-in,” what makes Air unique is its invitation to local retailers, makers, farmers, entertainers and community groups to breathe life into the experience. Air provides the environment, the kit of parts, the program structure, marketing, management and guidance. The rest is local. In fact, we’ve intentionally left aspects of the concept ‘open-ended’ so that it can be personalized by the local community or neighborhood— the intention being the ever-so-elusive ‘grit’ that everyone seeks but cannot create.

While the example illustrates the occupying of a deserted gas station, Air can go virtually anywhere and is scalable to accommodate a variety of settings. Air’s modularity not only allows for its mobility and ability to conform to different event and merchandising requirements, it can grow or shrink and change shape. A regional mall parking lot or the city park — either way, Air creates synergies and a novel new magnet for everyone’s curiosity and enjoyment.

What really sets Air apart from conventional developments is the notion that ‘Happenings’ are the experience— not the retail alone. In fact, create the ‘Happening,’ the customer and therefore the retail will follow.

Air is of our times— fluid and purposeful. Air pulls into town, unpacks a Happening, and brings communities together. Air is a new factor in dynamic living. Air floats along with trends and moves on before it becomes passé. Communities anticipate Air and wave goodbye when it leaves for the next town. Air is an unfolding story in which each neighborhood writes its own unique chapter. Whenever changes in customer behavior force fundamental shifts in commercial development towards authentic, purpose driven-experiences, a solution awaits with Air.’