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Q: What have you learned from projects abroad?

ka architecture

Darrell K. Pattison, Chief Strategic Officer/Director of Design: American architects travel to other countries to provide a “Westernized” retail experience and many times the projects abroad are not dependent on anchor stores. Overseas one will find a more diverse mix of tenants comprised of small shops and restaurants that are privately owned and operated. A reason for this tenant makeup is that it is a challenge for U.S retailers to set up their businesses, in order to be fully operational abroad and this, in turn, makes it difficult for developers to promote U.S. retailers in other countries.


Bob Tindall, President: Mixed-use is the norm on international projects, where we tend to work with clients who have just one ultimate decision-making entity. With our U.S. clients, we are likely to be negotiating with various division heads depending on whether it's a hotel or office component, for example. The smoother process from our international experience inspires us to help our domestic clients better understand the complexities they face with mixed-use. We believe this will ultimately result in better projects because of a more holistic attitude.

Architects Orange

Jack Selman, Senior Partner: We have two projects in South Korea. They are both very large factory outlet centers and it is interesting that these retail projects attract the same tenant lineup as they do in California, Texas or Washington and that Korean clients want to use similar architectural styles as in the U.S. We were looking forward to designing a project that reflected the local context and perhaps the history of the area. While the desire to reflect U.S. architecture abroad may not be a trend, it says a lot about the impact of American retail projects.


Tipton Housewright, Principal: Aspirations for quality goods acquired through a quality experience is becoming universal. Having said this, norms and expectations can vary. Mixed-use projects have been popular overseas for many years while they are relatively new in the U.S. In Asia or Europe virtually all new retail design is modern. Americans usually prefer designs that are more traditional.

MCG Architecture

Jeffrey T. Gill, Vice President/Principal: We've learned how to create more intimate common areas within a development. Fountains, proper landscape and semi-private plazas with inward orientation rather than sitting on the edge of a parking field all create a more intimate design. These spatial ideas combined with outdoor villages as a retail extension connected by meandering pathways rather than parking lots and striped sidewalks give one the sense of security and privacy rather than exposure.

MBH Architects

John McNulty, Founding Principal: International projects are more similar than they are different from the work we already produce. Many of the same issues that confront us here in the U.S. are perceived in the same way in other countries.

MulvannyG2 Architecture

Cho Suzumura, Principal: When you design projects all over the United States and the world, it is important to understand regionalism and different architectural styles. With every project, it is important to consider the surrounding area, cultures, and people in order for any project to be successful.

Beame Architectural Partnership

Olga Pizzi Garcia, Principal: We have been working abroad for the past 20 years developing an acute eye for shopping patterns and adaptability to the needs of a particular culture. Overseas owners are looking for a unique approach to retail design, providing us with a venue to test new design concepts while never bending the “retail rules.” This process usually demands efficiency in planning, budget and time due to factors such as small store sizes, lack of strong anchors and financial concerns. The greatest lesson however has been to never underestimate the guest, who is grateful and loyal to a thoughtful, sophisticated design in any culture.

CommArts, Inc.

Henry Beer, Co-Chairman: There's Europe and there's Asia and there's South America and China, and it better be a different business card and marketing package for each! We've learned three important lessons: Brands rule. Response to spatial design and color vary greatly depending on culture. Presentations must demonstrate an understanding of the meaning of consensus.

O'Brien Architects

Patrick O'Brien, Director of Business Development: Get a retainer!

TAGS: Development
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