Native is a new building program for residential space on high streets. This program challenges the typical build to rent building model, by providing a space where communities, tenants, and property developers can exchange information and design a better high street experience for all.
Sara Monacchi
Saitej Pisupati
Nick Talbot
The Urban Village High Street – Repurposing the high street as retail and residential space
The high street is a source of livelihoods that have been deeply impacted by the rise of digital commerce, and change in consumer behaviors. We see businesses moving online, and stores becoming empty spaces. The building sector, supported by new regulations, sees the opportunity to repurpose these empty spaces into residential units. What will this future scenario look like? We partnered with UKAA, the organization for the UK Built to Rent sector, and together we created solutions for building, living, and shaping the future high streets of London.
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Exploring the context
Since the beginning we realized the complexity of this project because the high street is composed of many elements; there are shops, buildings, transportation, people, employees, regulations, culture, and lots more. Due to the complexity of it, we started exploring the bigger picture; the city. Because we worked from two different countries, field researches were both online and offline in our respective towns. Although distant, we both arrived at the realization that: “ if the cities vision is set, then we know what sort of high street we need and the building just naturally occurs”.

Experiencing high streets

We began our journey by conducting interviews with local people, community representatives, and officials to understand their general feelings and vision for the future of high streets. We were amazed at the emotional attachment they had towards their neighbourhood and their interest in protecting it. Each one described their high street to us as a living organism with its personality and interests. We realized that it was our duty to find a balance between preserving the uniqueness of these areas while facilitating the evolution of the city.

The challenge

We discovered that typical construction work does not take into account the high street's uniqueness. The property developers tend to replicate the same building in other areas. We knew that this would create conflict between the property developers and the community, as the community sees the houses as a threat to the image of the high street in their heart. Additionally, this mismatch between building and location would have compromised the tenant experience.

Our vision of a shared voice
Every community is endowed with a deep knowledge of its place. We believe that this information should be included in the design process of these residential buildings to reflect the environment in which they are located. But this information is challenging to gather and time-consuming. That's why we thought of creating reference groups composed of people from the community who can collect and share their take of the high street identity. Their voice will be the residential building's foundation, making them feel like part of the design process.
A new way to find home
We know that finding a home is not always easy, and if that home is located in a place full of character, it may be even more complicated. Since our buildings will now reflect the high street, tenants will also be committed to the area when they chose the building. Through the platform, we can facilitate this process by asking tenants simple questions such as their noise tolerance, food taste, interests, and hobbies and match them to the right high street.
special thanks
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