Creative director of James St. Initiative emphasizes the importance of a sense of belonging in commercial spaces

Oct. 27 (NBD) – What is quality of life?

"When we have quality of life, we experience a sense of belonging, comfort, satisfaction and excitement motivating us forward to continue to improve on the things that surround us," remarked Marie-Louise Theile in an interview with National Business Daily (NBD).

Theile is the Creative Director of James Street Initiative, a branding, marketing and place making creative agency focusing on inner-city precinct renewal projects. She is going to shed more insights on the increasingly hot-discussed issue – quality of life - at the first Monocle Cities Series Conference.

Marie-Louise Theile, Creative Director of James Street Initiative (Photo provided by Monocle)

The event is to kick off on November 4 in Southwest China's Chengdu, which is known as the "land of abundance", and will gather over 150 moguls from various domains such as fashion, architecture, design, and retail.

A sense of belonging matters for retail hubs

In the eyes of Theile, being able to connect with like-minded people that share the same sensibilities, curiosities, passions and values - on a range of things, be it design, food, education, or work – enhances the quality of life.

Developing inner-city commercial spaces is her way to help ameliorate people's quality of life.

After 22 years of work in media, Theile established the James Street Initiative in 2010. The past experience greatly fed into her current role. "Journalism equips me with honed communication skills," she explained, "It is vital that our messaging is clear and concise."

James Street in Brisbane, Australia, one of the most recognizable high streets in the country, is one of her works. Boutique shopping, fine dining and the city's best dressed brunch crowd collide on the street.

In Theile's mind, such commercial spaces or high streets should not be simply spaces for consumption, and what they deliver should be far more than mere economic benefits.

"Inner-city commercial spaces should also deliver a sense of place and community," Theile elaborated. "Nurturing relationships between retailers, landlords and shoppers is key to creating a modern day village which allows people to feel comfortable, familiar and attain a sense of belonging, even for those who are visiting for the very first time."

Photo/Shetuwang

Remain true to roots relevant to original residents and businesses

In order to convey a sense of belonging, retail spaces should remain true to the roots in the connection with residents and businesses that populated the area before its commercial expansion, Theile told NBD. 

She took Brisbane's James Street, which has forged a linkage among different parties by combining cultural awareness with trade, as an example. "It has long attracted visual and creative artists with many of the city's key private and public galleries located within the area," she noted, "We have worked to embrace this within our events and our campaigns." 

According to Theile, through the combination, commercial spaces could bring unique and intelligent elements to the precincts and allow the retailers and customers to share something more than just a transaction.

In addition, to avoid the high resemblance among plenty of retail spaces, a unique and innovative one should be built upon local characteristics, which will, at the same time, fortify the sense of belonging for people. 

Many retailers at James Street have looked to the local climate and lifestyle to capture what makes them different from other counterparts, she remarked. 

"Embracing the sub-tropical elements into our spaces with breezeways, verdant planting, high ceilings, white brick - all have helped to create an urban resort feel in the street," Theile said to NBD, "Our climate allows us to live outdoors most of the year. The naturally ventilated spaces, natural fibres, and large windows allowing light enable shoppers to share the outdoor lifestyle reinforcing a sense of place that is uniquely Brisbane."

 

Email: lansuying@nbd.com.cn

Editor: Lan Suying