Karen Duan

MArch I AP

Post-Digital Consumption

Advised by Grace La

Digital culture created remote possibilities, which questioned the relevance of architecture. Nowhere did this register more clearly than the case of shopping, where the “retail apocalypse” declared the death of an age-old architectural lineage.

E-commerce—shopping’s touted heir—indeed redefined how we consume. Instead of perpetuating a congregational place, it introduced a solitary actThis shift from public destination to private dispersal threatened social rituals long embedded in our city fabric. Moreover, it trivialized an urban scale of public life, which risked irrelevance without recalibrating for the contemporary consumer.1 Under these new parameters, shopping demands an adaptation.

This thesis reimagines the future of shopping for the digital age. Through the design of an all-inclusive bridal store, retail program blurs the boundary between our need to fit and hold, and our desire for instant convenience. What would it look like to merge the hyper-intimacy of bridal shopping with the anonymity of online shopping? More importantly, how do we leverage tensions between the physical and digital to re-envision stores more relevant to contemporary life?

Set in San Francisco Union Square, this store occupies a faltering retail district, whose vacancies tripled in the past three years. Continued closings  and volatile foot traffic all demand a new, more nimble model of retail: one that wields its own physicality for sensorial, experiential gain. When placed within  an expanding digital realm, this thesis becomes one of exploratory redefinition, where questions of access, excess, and obsolescence nest themselves within a larger question of how we’ll consume tomorrow.

1Antoine Picon. Digital Culture in Architecture: An Introduction for the Design Professions (Basel: Birkhäuser, 2010).

Karen Duan, MArch I AP. A display of wedding dresses with two spectators.