The Retail Atelier

Site Photography, The Author

Site Photography, The Author


Our lust for acquisition has resulted from our insatiable appetite for more commodities.  All we desire within our reach and never fully in our grasp; the shopper forever on the hunt. The beautiful item sits so radiantly on the shelf, perfect and pure. Forbid those that mention the hands that made such a thing. Perhaps we don’t want to know as the truth may destroy our desire. Disconnection from the fundamental human need to make, sell and buy garments is ever present as the shop window shrinks to the size of a computer screen. Shopping, an activity that once empowered cities and humanity to thrive is dissolved into dust.

The Passage

The Passage

The Shopper

The Shopper




The Retail Atelier seeks to reconnect the public realm with the primitive human need to make, sell and buy garments. It looks to redefine the term ‘Retail Centre’ as a way to celebrate the design of garments. In challenging the typology of retail, it will re-establish social interaction and cultural interchange. The marketplaces, souks and bazaars of the 17th century were places of multiple social encounters, allowing communities in urban centres to thrive. Fashion retail needs to diverse away from its consumerist tendencies and returns to its primordial notions. The synergy between fashion and architecture has been present ever since the ancient Greeks applied gender to columns. Architectural theory has long been fascinated with the relationship between garment and edifice. Gottfried Semper in many of his writings (most famously “The Four Elements of Architecture”) explores the way in which carpets were used to define spaces. Covering, veiling and masking natures work were celebrated as the “essence of man’s civilisation: his art”. “The Principal of Dressing” reiterated by Adolf Loos refers to the choreography that takes place between cladding, masking and dressing materials. Fashion and architecture simultaneously refer to human proportions, form and materiality. The Japanese word Ma refers to the relationship between both disciplines as a ‘three-dimensional domain between the body and the garment’. The story of retail begins with the primitive desire of humans to clothe themselves and dress their spaces. The act of exchanging goods has been fundamental in shaping society for centuries. In the past decade, retail has dramatically changed to satisfy our never-ending thirst for more commodities. Our disconnection with produce means that retail spaces have lost their sense of community, culture and opportunity. We no longer appreciate the process of making and craftsmanship, instead, we seek to keep up with endless trends.

Advertisement in Vogue  1939

Advertisement in Vogue




Typology: The Retail Centre

 The Retail Centre typology follows the never-ending cycle of fast fashion and consumer wishes. Their design is intrinsic of urban city planning. Southgate in Bath is an example of this typology.  The dominance of commercial interest is creating tension in Bath between independent and commercial businesses. In discussion with myself and the manager of Toast (an independent fashion label in Bath) , she mentions, “... a number of issues with retail exist in Bath, namely the tension between Southgate and the local retail sectors. There is no support in Bath for fashion designers looking to start their own brand...” 


Typology: The Atelier

             Atelier refers to a workshop or studio. After the 19th-century these artist studios became general places of work, study and design. In the past, fashion ateliers were notorious for female exploitation. Dressmakers were paid very little and made to work late hours. Architecturally, the workshop spaces were neglected and not looked after. In Bath, the main fashion atelier is the Bath School of Art and Design at Queens Square. There is a lack of support for fashion graduates once they leave university. Often they do not have the required studio space and equipment. 


Typology: The Retail Atelier

       The Retail Atelier seeks to buffer the tension caused by commercial retail centres in Bath. In doing so it will provide a window of opportunity for upcoming fashion graduates to make, buy and sell their designs. The emphasis will be on allowing people to ‘consume’ the ‘making’ of garments, rather than the ‘commodities’. The Retail Atelier will be a place centred on community, creative exchange and culture.

Site Plan 1:5000  The Author

Site Plan 1:5000

The Author


 Broad Street Car Park, previous know as York House Mews, is a hidden gem tucked away at the end of Broad Street. The site boundary includes the car park and the back of King Edward school in order to enable the scheme to link with Milsom Place. Currently, the site is a car park and delivery zone for buildings along Broad Street, George Street and Milsom Street. The site was bombed during the war years, however, it has always been retained as a deliveries area for the buildings that surround it. The site makes a great location for The Retail Atelier due to its link to surrounding retail areas.

Site Elevation Study 1:1000   The Author

Site Elevation Study 1:1000

The Author

Site Render showing key constraints  The Author

Site Render showing key constraints

The Author

Site and Retail Context Render  The Author

Site and Retail Context Render

The Author



Provision for Fashion Atelier

Workshop - 350 m² 

 : a celebratory space where the making of garments takes place

Fabrication - 8 m²

Metalwork - 16 m²

Fashion Studio - 35 m²

 : a space where the design of garments happends

Design Hub - 50 m²

 : a space where designers can collaborate and share ideas

Garment Dying - 10 m²

Exhibition Space- 100 m²

 : a magnificent multi-use space that glorifies the designers collections

Courtyard - 300 m²


Provision for Retail

10 Small Retail Units - 26 m² x 10

 : each retail unit consisting of a shop floor, fitting rooms and storage

: an affordable unit for designers using the atelier to sell clothing

: a space that encourages mindful shopping

5 Large Retail Units - 52 m² x 5

 : a larger retail unit consisting of a shop floor, fitting rooms and storage

Cafe/Restaurant- 100 m²


Provision for Services

Plant - 30 m² 

Offices - 100 m²

 : an office space needed for both the retail and the atelier. 

: affordable office spaces will be avaliable for start up businesses
Storage - 115 m²

 : a seperate storage space for the retail units and making workshops

: there needs to be plenty of space for the storage of garments
WC - 70 m²

Kitchen - 20 m²

Circulation (20%) - 346 m²

Total: 2170 m²


  User Analysis

The equilibrium with making and retailing spaces will form a pivotal design move for the proposal. In analysing various user groups patterns show the shoppers will be the largest group, spending the least amount of time in the building. On the other hand, the staff and the businesses will be a smaller group but will spend more time in The Retail Atelier. The building overall has a consistent usage throughout the day, however, the degree of visitors may fluctuate depending on the day of the week.

Site Contextual Analysis 1:7500  The Author

Site Contextual Analysis 1:7500

The Author



The Royal Exchange, London

The Royal Exchange was London’s first centre for trading stocks. We can learn from its former days as the retail centre of London. Shopping was viewed as an activity that united people this allowed it to shape culture and urban growth. In plan, the central courtyard space enabled communication and interaction to take place, around this sits the retail accommodation.


The Palais Royal, Paris

The Palais Royal was the focal point of Parisian public life after it was built in 1639. It transformed into the hub of French social life. Its rich architectural language consists of multiple courtyards around retail units. These arcades were for a high-class society seeking high fashion . 


The Burlington Arcade, London

The Burlington Arcade was the first important arcade typology in England and America. It became instantly popular with its ability to entice shoppers. It became the centre of British craft and luxury, attracting people with highly fashionable pursuits. In plan, it stretches out along with two retail sections either side. This is covered by a graceful roofing structure linking the two elements .


In Print


". . . man only can be aware of the insensibility of man towards a new gown. . . . Woman is fine for her satisfaction alone.  No man will admire her the more, no woman will like her the better for it ..."

- Northanger Abbey, Jane Austin


Fourth Year

BSc Architecture Final Project Brief

Melissa Dewar