This is a re-post from a few years back when my wife Kathleen noticed an interesting interview with Ron Pompei from the popular women’s store “Antropologie” in a supplement to Time magazine. As I read about his philosophy of store design, it clicked that we should be thinking this way when it comes to how people experience “church.” In the past, a church was an artistic expression of the community, and from small chapels in the woods, to magnificant cathedrals in major cities, houses of worship reflected meaning. From the overall design, to the smallest details, they told the story of the faith.
But today, we build churches out of metal buildings, or coverted, bankrupted supermarkets. And when a church does do something spectacular, we criticize it as a useless extravagance. But as Ron Pompei talked with interviewer Caroline Tell, I couldn’t help but think of the religious possibilites if we could adapt this thinking to the environment of worship:
What is different about the retail design of Anthropologie stores?
Most stores are obviously all about the product, but this is a shift. Instead it’s a space for you and the product.
What is your retail-design style?
Any environment that gives you the “Aha!” moment. It might be the Cloisters; it might be Anthropologie. People walk in and take a deep breath. It’s a garden in a city, not somewhere to be hyper but a place for repose. My whole inspiration came from my experiences. So I wanted to differentiate. It doesn’t matter if you have an experience if it’s not a transformative experience.
How does the transformative experience affect shoppers?
The reason you like Anthropologie is because the space is saying, “Stay. Wander. Make yourself comfortable.” There aren’t aisles telling you where to walk. You have a kinesthetic freedom. You can make choices and discoveries. You develop a relationship with the space, the context, the experience and therefore with the brand. That’s more interesting to us, rather than a grid telling us how to move and how to shop.
How will the transformative experience evolve?
In the future, we will see the merging of commerce, culture and community into a richer content landscape where people can make acquisitions in a framework, where people can share similar values. Commercial entities are going to have to be more cultural entities and vice versa. We’re all looking for a community in a global world.
What is the biggest sin a store designer can commit?
When retail establishments see a shopper as a consumer, and they see what they have as a commodity. They are not creating much added value there, no enticement.
Do you agree? Shouldn’t a church design reflect more meaning? I wish the designers of most churches had as much passion as the designer of Anthropologie stores…