Small wonder

The new Woolworths development in Mount Pleasant – which had its grand opening late last month – is the culmination of two years’ work for the architects and designers at Hames Sharley. And while the studio’s larger-scale projects such as Forrest Chase, Carillion and the Karrinyup Shopping Centre are obvious headline-grabbers, this new addition quietly rings in changes in supermarket design within a neighbourhood retail hub.

“Much focus was placed on not making this feel like a ‘typical’ supermarket,” says Associate Mason Harrison. “Woolworths stores are currently evolving to put fresh food, customer experience and amenity in the spotlight more than ever before. Our architecture has responded by giving direct visibility of what is happening within the store from the street, where it traditionally this would have been hidden from view.”

A fully glazed façade, which allows passers-by to see the activity within the supermarket, offers a stark contrast with the painted concrete walls you might normally expect to face onto the street. But this “open and visible” approach wasn’t the only bespoke response required, with the design team needing to think outside the box – literally.

“The shape of the site meant the standard Woolworths layout would not fit,” Mason explains, “and the space in basement would be tight to get circulation required for vehicles without people feeling they were being shoehorned into a tight space. This required a fast design response from our team and we really had to keep pushing through items as they arose and working in parallel with the other aspects of project that were streaming forward.”

Of course, as with any town centre project, considerable attention must be paid to where it sits within the community. Indeed, it’s crucial to understand local context long before pen is put to paper in the actual design, with factors such as local demography and amenities in neighbouring suburbs having a significant impact.

The decision was made that the new store at Mount Pleasant would ideally be mixed use. “Two key drivers really helped push the case for mixed use,” says Mason. “Firstly, convenience. As our lives become busier, with less time available to travel between appointments, the ability to do day-to-day errands in the same place – such as shopping, seeing your doctor and taking a break for a coffee – becomes more desirable. Likewise, these additional uses can reap the benefit of greater customer catchment from being located next to one another and the supermarket than if they were trading separately.

“Secondly as urban or inner suburban areas see density increases, there is a need for amenity to also increase, but in many cases, there is limited space available.”

As a result, Reynolds Road, Mount Pleasant is home not only Woolworths but also a medical centre and pharmacy, dentist, café and commercial space. By coupling these other uses to the location, greater activation is achieved for the local community, in the shape of a vibrant location that caters to a greater number of needs. And for the designers at Hames Sharley, it’s the enhancement and service of local communities that are at the heart of such projects. Creation of a place that is as welcoming as possible, and true to the aesthetic of the existing neighbourhood. It was vital, for instance, that the project avoid an impersonal, new-build feel.

“The local area is renowned for its jacaranda street tree plantings,” says Mason, “so we made purples, greens and timber tones a prominent part of the entry foyer’s internal finishes and glazing. Standing inside the foyer looking out, the pattern in the glass is an abstract vision of looking out at Mount Pleasant through a canopy of jacaranda flowers.”

For those entering from the basement, archive pictures of the adjacent Canning Highway precinct, displayed on a soft timber backing, serve as a storyboard of the area’s history. “This creates a sensation of the journey from basement car park, akin to climbing from the base of a tree and then stepping out into a bright, colourful and inviting canopy where all the activity occurs. It’s not a typical supermarket-entry experience but is a more meaningful engagement with customers.”

The jacaranda motif was carried through to a woven mesh screen over the façade, designed by artist Paula Hart, breaking down the otherwise commercial outlook of the adjacent Canning Highway. Serving a dual function by providing shading and a striking statement piece generating interest for the commercial spaces on level one, the screen has had a dramatic impact.

“We were introduced to Paula and her ‘lace’ designs, and Redfort Fabrics, during our artist engagement process and were instantly taken by the work she has been producing,” says Mason. “The screen really brings the building to life, and that’s a great thing to be able to say because it’s not uncommon for the art component to be ancillary to how the development presents itself – something that is stuck on or placed beside it as decoration. The final outcome with its fully integrated, seamless incorporation of the art into the built form is a result we are proud of and has been well received.”

Hames Sharley would like to thank the numerous strategic partners involved in the realisation of this development, including Fabcot, Woolworths, ADCO Constructions, Proven Project Management, Urbis, Pritchard Francis, Wood & Grieve Engineers, and Lucid Consulting, as well as the artists Paula Hart and Redfort Fabrics.

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