Unbuilt Vancouver: Transnational Nordstrom


Model for Transnational Nordstrom’s by Margarita Krivolutskaya
Physical Model for Transnational Nordstrom’s by Margarita Krivolutskaya

A number of unsolicited proposals for the old Sears building surfaced following in the wake of rumours that Nordstrom would be taking over as the new tenant. This proposal, presented during that time by Intern Architect Margarita Krivolutskaya, capitalizes on the large size and location of the building to address issues of social isolation:

MK: With the trend of transnationalism becoming more and more prominent, the borders between countries will continue to blur. Fuelled by globalization and technological progress, a new type of citizen has emerged. Neo-nomads or “digitally geared people on the move” as defined by Yasmine Abbas, are people who do not have any roots or permanent place to stay. They are limited only by the extents of civilization, urbanization and progress and they are becoming a more permanent part of the global society. Their influence on the development of the contemporary urban environment is becoming increasingly evident. This design explores the possibility of connection and exchange between product, program and people by creating a symbiotic infrastructure for neo-nomads and more traditional city-dwellers inside an urban shopping mall.

Vancouver, a city often criticized for being unwelcoming to newcomers, could benefit from many of the ideas proposed in the design. This proposal for Nordstrom includes departments that thematically match television shows which have achieved global popularity. Each department is particularly designed to pick up on global trends that resonate with people irrespective of their heritage. The various wings of the shopping mall are connected by a looping pedestrian concourse; an internal micro-version of Vancouver’s Sea Wall.

The proposed departments include: Parks and Recreation, Project Runway, The Cooking Network, The Office, and Home Improvement. While traditional sales comprise the bulk of the building, each department comes with new features to address the transnational citizen. Parks and Recreation is designed with a public pool and climbing wall built around the sales items. Project Runway includes a rentable space for making garments and a high-profile model runway visible by shoppers. The Cooking Network showcases products in a restaurant which also serves as a culinary school. The Office has a café, rentable meeting rooms, break-out learning spaces, an auditorium, and casual work areas. Home Improvement provides access to a public workshop space for people who do not have the capital to afford their own tools. Margarita further describes the project:

MK: The names of the TV shows came not just for the reason that they are internationally popular, but because they (neo-nomads) have a very extroverted nature. That is where the idea of display came from – they don’t want to be seen as different (as tourists or foreigners), they just want to be seen. Since they are capable of working in unexpected environments like coffee shops, their presence tends to attract new customers. The design creates an environment open and visible enough for the neo-nomad to occupy, which the owner of the space can benefit from. That is why the shopping mall was chosen as a site; traditionally those big shopping malls didn’t have any windows (they were giant warehouses) so people who were shopping in them didn’t have any distractions from the merchandise. Adding glass for the display of people transforms the space into an inviting and theatrical buffer zone (like the collages suggest) between the mall and the outside. For example, neo-nomads working in the home improvement zone are renting the space and tools that can be bought in the mall and make products that can be sold here. They become a living advertisement. It is a mutually beneficial coexistence of (in this case) craftsmen and tool producers and merchandisers.

You can learn more about Margarita and her work at her website http://krivolutskaya.com/

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James is an architect and writer from Vancouver, British Columbia with a passion for affordable housing, public space, design, and the Pacific Northwest. James has worked on architecture projects across the lower mainland and has written for Canadian Architect, Objekt International, and Price Tags. He holds a Masters in Architecture from the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design and a Bachelors of Applied Science in Civil-Structural Engineering from the University of Waterloo. James has been an AIBC architectural awards jury member, has served on UBC SALA Thesis Committee, and was awarded a special mention in the Urbanarium's Missing Middle competition. He lives in Gastown with his wife Errin, a cool optometrist responsible for his maple glasses.