So tell us about who you are and what you do?
My name is Jeff Gunning, and I lead RTKL’s Commercial Practice Group in the Americas. I am based in our Dallas office. RTKL is a global firm, and I have the privilege of working with talented architects and designers worldwide, creating experiential places that provide a sense of community and push the boundaries of art and architecture. I have focused mostly on large-scale, retail-driven, mixed-use developments that combine retail, entertainment, sport, residential, office and hospitality. The potential of these projects to totally transform and revitalize a city center is what I find most exciting. I am a charter member of the advisory board for the AIA Retail Entertainment Knowledge Community, and I chair the ICSC Future Image Architecture Competition.
Tell us about your project?
Fashion Outlets of Chicago represents a complete departure from the traditional factory outlet model by offering an upscale shopping experience that seamlessly blends art, food and fashion in a luxury environment. Located 20 minutes from downtown and across the street from O’Hare International airport, the mall is accessible via the highway or public transit. It features 530,000-SF of space and more than 150 retailers, including Gucci, Prada, Barneys, Diane Von Furstenberg and Moncler. Due to its proximity to O’Hare, the center caters to an international audience.
A variety of inventive techniques integrate site-responsive architecture with high quality design, including a seven-level parking deck covered in a veil of perforated, corrugated and flat metal panels that soften the rough exterior and pre-cast concrete patterned exterior walls that reduce the building’s scale. Digital signs, display screens and 14-foot high rooftop signage enliven the façade and ensure visibility to motorists or passengers flying overhead into O’Hare. Inside, generously-sized skylights, comfortable lounge space, well-appointed restrooms and custom environmental graphics are among the many high-end amenities offered, and specialty retailers are strategically aligned by location. Overall, Fashion Outlets of Chicago is designed with flexibility for the rapidly evolving retail environment and a sophisticated shopper’s point of view in mind.
What made this project stand out?
Fashion Outlets of Chicago is the city’s first ground-up, enclosed shopping center built in over a decade. The design incorporates nationally and internationally commissioned work to enrich and enliven its unique ambience. The concept was brought to life through a partnership with The Arts Initiative, a newly formed collective dedicated to placing highly interactive visual art in public venues. This fusion of site-specific, museum-quality art with a public space adds a layer of sophistication unusual for a retail center and engages new audiences in the art experience. Each piece is intelligently integrated into RTKL’s interior architectural framework.
Our design combination marries the aspirational shopping experience with a brand new retail format—the luxury outlet. This urban, multi-level, art-filled outlet mall established a new paradigm for the retail experience while achieving the practical objectives of accessibility and an appealing merchandise mix for the target market demographic.
As Lori Mukoyama, Senior Associate Vice President of the retail environments studio in RTKL’s Chicago office, put it, “Bringing this vision to life in a fresh way required collaboration with developers, community leaders, retailers and other stakeholders. We are extremely pleased that this cooperative effort resulted in the creation of a contemporary combination of dining, art and shopping, making Fashion Outlets of Chicago a premier shopping destination.”
What are you most excited for at RECon 2015?
ICSC RECon is one of the most dynamic events that I attend—a true meeting of the minds for the shopping center industry. I am excited to connect with other professionals and to learn more about the latest industry trends and best practices, which will help me gain valuable perspective that will inform RTKL’s current and future projects.