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Nakou was at Westfield and Scentre Group for almost 11 years, working across major projects in Australia and New Zealand, including Queensland’s Pacific Fair and Westfield Newmarket in Auckland. He also worked on Westfield Chermside, which was shortlisted for Best Shopping Centre in the World at the 2018 World Architecture Festival.
According to Nakou, he’s excited to join The General Store “because of the endless opportunities to define and drive the future of retail. To create something which doesn’t yet exist – in a creative and collaborative culture with like-minded people.”
The award-winning General Store has recently invested in architectural and interiors talent to grow its retail and experience design arm, with the recent addition of Paul Morrison as project director, alongside senior interior designers Kristy Mackay, Ana Marre and Anna Tang. Clients include BWS, Rebel, Freedom Furniture, Barbeques Galore and Salvo’s Stores.
Here, Nakou discusses the post-Covid shopping centre and shares his insights into the future of design in Australia and abroad:
IR: What are some of the design projects that you’ve worked on that you’re most proud of and why?
RN: Westfield Chermside and Pacific Fair. [We were] pioneering projects which redefined the way we think about retail and shopping centres not only in Australia but internationally. On a more personal level, they challenged me in ways I never knew were possible and allowed me to grow quickly. I felt like a sponge for many years in delivering these mega projects, absorbing the brilliance and expertise of our various stakeholders and consultants. These projects hold a special place in my heart as a result.
IR: How would you describe the process of designing a shopping centre?
RN: Incredibly fluid, complex and unique. It’s a real balancing act between architecture, interior design, strategy, research, and understanding the multitude of layers which make a shopping centre what it is.
IR: What do you imagine the post-Covid shopping centre now looks like?
RN: A true showcase of our values, a place to live, work and play and a bit of a juxtaposition. Technologically brilliant, frictionless, theatrical and innovative, whilst exhibiting a ‘back to basics’ approach to public space and social infrastructure. Architecturally, perhaps a bit more honest and approachable yet brave, striking and enveloped in greenery.
IR: Who are some of your favourite retail design heroes and why?
RN: Given my background, I naturally gravitate towards architecture practices which constantly push the boundaries and challenge our perception of what retail really is. Some of my favourite [agencies] are Concrete from Amsterdam, Snohetta in Oslo and Japanese practice, Wonderwall.
IR: What do you find most exciting about retail design in the current climate?
RN: What excites me most about retail design is the ‘grey area’ in terms of what we actually define as retail. I believe retail brands are well and truly in the driver’s seat in being able to capitalise on this and think bigger (and bolder) than ever. It’s about so much more than the selling of goods and services – it’s about lifestyle, community and purpose.
IR: What are some of your favourite examples of retail design locally and internationally and why?
RN: This could be a very long list but the first to come to mind are Nike’s House of Innovation in Paris, Eataly in New York, Miami Design District, Open House and The Commons in Bangkok, De Hallen in Amsterdam and Daikanyama T-Site in Tokyo.
IR: What are some of the skills a modern retail design strategist needs in this day and age?
RN: Curiosity, creativity, passion and understanding people. There are few things more powerful than a curious mind. It encourages us to ask questions, research relentlessly, and constantly challenge our own thoughts and ideas. We best inspire others when we are inspired ourselves, and nothing fuels our imagination and creativity more than being curious.
Equally, understanding people has never been more important. [Gaining] insights into how people like to engage with brands, shop, experience and more or less live their lives has shaped a unique relationship between brands and customers. As designers, we have an opportunity to curate and shape the space these exchanges occur in and invariably create a new value proposition for physical retail.