‘Dwell zones’ make for pleasurable shopping centre experiences

by Helena Morgan
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If you barely survived frenzied Christmas shopping or the perilous Boxing Day bargain hunt, perhaps a future in-person shopping spree will be improved by pausing in a ‘dwell zone’.

It is no secret that prioritising user comfort when designing facilities such as shopping malls is a cornerstone of inclusive and accessible design. 

Leading the charge for impactful shopping centre design is Victoria-based interior design practice Techne, responsible for the recent design of ‘dwell zones’ in three nationally renowned shopping centres – Watergardens and Box Hill Central South in Victoria and Canberra Centre in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).

Box Hill Central South

Subverting traditional shopping centre experiences 

According to Technē co-founding director Justin Northrop, the renewed interest in designing ‘dwell zones’ – essentially a space for resting or relaxation in shopping centres –  emerged out of the pandemic-fueled desire for gathering spaces in precincts that are conducive to community engagement. 

“Visitors seek social interaction and stimulation beyond the normal shopping centre experience – instead, they are looking for more of a holistic lifestyle experience that thoughtful public spaces can nurture,” says North.

Box Hill Central South dwell zone

Technē’s experiential design of dwell zones relied on an innovative use of space, memorable colour palettes and tactile furniture to create an area for users to revel in dining, lingering and lounging. The practice called on the tenets of hospitality design, in addition to art and engineering, in guaranteeing user comfort and ease. 

Canberra Centre dwell zone

“We focused on user comfort and functionality and achieved an intimate aesthetic that sits between the thoroughfare spaces,” says Technē associate Bianca Baldi.

Contributory design 

Central to the design inspiration for the ‘dwell zones’ at Watergardens, Canberra Centre and Box Hill Central South was the notion of giving back to all users of the space and blurring the boundaries between indoor and outdoor. 

Watergardens’ dwell zones demonstrate the value of providing amenities for children such as playground areas. Comparatively, dwell zones decorated with indoor plants and funky furniture pods fitted with charging cables in Canberra Centre’s Tiger Lane dining hall transform a once-insipid daytime mall into a late-night shopping and dining hotspot. 

Northrop underscores how ‘dwell zones’ increase the value and amenity of shopping centres. 

“It’s clear to see people-centered ‘dwell zones’ that cater for different activities and different-sized groups are a key solution to revitalising shopping centres and engaging visitors,” says Northrop. 

Watergardens dwell zone and children’s playground

Additionally, the ‘dwell zones’ located in West End Mall at Box Hill Central South adorned with metallic finishes and an urban colour palette have injected a sense of vibrancy and energy into the precinct. 

‘Dwell zones’ reinforce that something as quotidian as a shopping centre can give back to the community and allow for an enjoyable and seamless facility experience – whether that be a mad Christmas dash, a leisurely retail therapy Sunday or the hurried post-work dinner shop. 

Photography supplied by Techne. 

Featured Image: Canberra Centre, ACT

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