Shopping centers assume an importance far beyond their function as a retailer. Think of Harrods in London or Macy's in New York – they became landmarks which help define the character of their cities. In smaller cities and suburbs they play equally important roles in being a place to meet or to stroll, a focal point of social interaction. Thus their design and services – their identity – are fundamental as they shape the contours of the public space of a city. Méthos studied these in the heart of the Alps.
Annecy is a special place, nested between the Alps and the lake. With urbanization that is not oppressive, Annecy offers a high quality of life and numerous cultural attractions that one expects nowadays from a midsize city. Yet its residents sometimes refer to their hometown as a “sleeping beauty” or a “gilded cage” from which they need to escape briefly from time to time to visit Geneva or Paris for a taste of the big city. It was such small paradoxes of a small paradise that made our study of Galeries Lafayette in Annecy so interesting.
The “Galeries”, as it is known to residents, is a city landmark. The 1960s style building is a reference point for finding your way around Annecy. Before architect Manuelle Gautrand began designing the reconstruction and extension of the building, Citynove wanted a better understanding what the Annecy Galeries Lafayette meant for the identity of the city.
Our study sought to elucidate this identity, both in commercial and practical terms for the city. Three ethnographers, a filmmaker and an illustrator spent three weeks with residents and city notables, discussing and imagining with them what the new Galeries should be. The results were shared with Gautrand, who designed Citroen's futuristic flagship showroom on the Champs-Élysées and Barclay's origami inspired building in Paris.
Méthos has developed an expertise on shopping centers. The major actors in the sector have called upon the skills of our teams to help position projects in Paris, Lyon, Strasbourg, Toulouse, Dijon and other cities.
Illustrations Martin Etienne