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Profile photo of Mattias Kärrholm

Mattias Kärrholm


Profile photo of Mattias Kärrholm

Retailising Space, Architecture, Retail and the Territorialisation of Public Space


  • Mattias Kärrholm

Summary, in English

In recent decades we have witnessed a proliferation of new kinds of retail space. Retail space has cropped up just about everywhere in the urban landscape, at libraries, workplaces, churches and museums. In short, retail is becoming a more and more manifest part of the public domain. The traditional spaces of retail such as city centres and outlying shopping malls are either increasing in size or disappearing, producing new urban types and whole environments totally dedicated to retail. The proliferation of new retail space brings about a re- and deterritorialisation of urban public space that also includes the transformation of materialities and urban design, and even the logic and ways through which these design amenities meet the needs of retailers and/or consumers.

In the wake of the consumer society, research has pointed out a tendency by which shopping seems to have less to do with just quality and price, and more with style and identity-making. Consumers appropriate certain brands and increasingly tend to use their shopping as means of social distinction and belonging (Zukin 2004). Retail architecture and design also tend to become more elaborate and complex, focusing on branding, place-making and the creation of a shopping-friendly atmosphere (Klingmann 2007, Lonsway 2009). Although consumption increasingly seem to be connected to symbolic values and differentiation rather than basic needs, and design increasingly seem to be about enhancing and supporting the mediation of these immaterial values, materialities (as always) continues to act in very concrete ways. The basic notion of this book is that the materialities of retail space are not just about symbolic values, theming, etc., but that the new consumer society has also brought about new styles of material organization, and new means of material design affecting not just our minds but also, and just as much, our bodies and movements in the urban landscape.

The main aim of this book is to develop a conceptual and analytical framework coping with the role of architecture in the ongoing territorial productions of urban public spaces in everyday life. This conceptual framework is developed through a series of essays focusing on recent transformations of urban retail environments. How does the retailisation of public domains affect our everyday life? And more specifically: What are the different roles played by the built environment in these transformations of public space? In The Oxford Companion to Architecture it is stated that:

Shops and stores are the most ephemeral of all building types. The ultimate architectural fashion victims, their need to remain up-to-date ensures that even the most expensive schemes, by the most renowned architects, have fleeting lifespans (Oxford Companion to Architecture vol. 2 2009: 834).

Although this might create problems for the architectural historian, the transformative world of contemporary retail spaces is a gold mine for the architectural researcher interested in the role of architecture in the construction, stabilisation and destabilisation of spatial meanings and usages in our every day urban environment. This book takes on an architectural and territorial perspective on this issue, looking specifically at transformations by way of how urban consumption is architecturally and territorially organised, i.e. it suggests and develops a kind architectural territorology.


  • Department of Architecture and Built Environment

Publishing year





Ashgate Studies in Architecture Series

Document type





  • Architecture
  • Human Geography


  • public space
  • retail
  • territoriality
  • actor network-theory
  • architecture and society




  • Territories of Consumptions - design and territorial control in urban commercial spaces


  • ISBN: 978-1-4094-3098-8