Architecture is more relevant than ever in the commercial context. Online shopping replaces the need to go to physical stores to purchase desired items. Therefore, the continued success of retail is very dependent on the creation of ambiance and experience.
The perfect recipe that balances scale, perspective, light and texture has suddenly become the heart and soul of commerce. People don’t leave the house because they need stuff. They go out because they want to feel the excitement and energy of a crowded street and alfresco shopping. They go out to meet in person, to walk side by side, to sit on steps or lean against a wall, dripping coffee in hand. They want to reach over the counter, collecting smiles and dropping change.
Their children, too, are not satiated by online shopping. There is little to be learned from incessant scrolling, but physical engagement is an endless teacher. (Can I see over? What is behind? Can this be climbed? So many dynamic faces. Catch their eye? Look away, shy. But just check? They are still there, with a cookie! I can be bought!)
Of course our online and offline lives are no longer separate. Photograph-ability of a destination is a subliminal motivation for many. Framed spaces, exceptional details, and photogenic lighting all enhance our ability to share an experience with friends and family who are not present. The echoing redundancy of malls, strip and otherwise, fails architecturally to inspire, and when the eye has nowhere to rest, it has nothing to share.
On the other hand, take the case of Aharale, a narrow store that serves crepe-brulee on Agripas Street. The doors, thrown open to lie flat against the adjacent stone, extend the space of the store. Its pink frames and exaggerated verticality combine whimsy with identifiable architectural trademarks of the shuk. Inside, the openness of the small space makes a performance of the food preparation and creates a connection between server and customer. Minimal seating encourages customers to experience the city, to explore and find a perch in the nearby parks of Nachlaot. Wide-eyed children drag their feet as they pass.
Needless to say, Aharale is wildly popular, both in reality and on social media. It has the right architecture to give its guests a special experience, and is eye-catching enough to get friend-scrollers off the couch.