The New Flagship
Once heralded as the death knell for brick-and-mortar stores, online shopping has proved to be anything but. Instead, retail stores, released from the analog, have returned to their 19th-century roots as spectacle. “The crowd is the veil through which the familiar city beckons to the flaneur as phantasmagoria—now a landscape, now a room,” wrote Walter Benjamin in Paris: Capital of the 19th Century. “Both become elements of the department store, which makes use of flanerie itself to sell goods. The department store is the last promenade of the flaneur.”
Today, that “last promenade” is a climax to an endless scroll, luring us in with its seasons of status, desire, and braggadocious modernity. This is the flagship as entertainment center—shoes as something to do and someone to be. See the Nike House of Innovation on New York’s Fifth Avenue, which pairs an app with a stunning 68,000-square-foot store to create—what else?—an experience. On the eve of the 2020s, the flagship has become the expression of our collective culture, feeding our hunger for status, optimization, and diversion.
Reflecting on design in 2018 for Metropolis’s November/December issue, critic Aaron Betsky declared reuse the “style of our time.” “The importance of reuse is both pragmatic and ideological,” he wrote. “We need to repurpose what we have because old buildings are better constructed, are usually located closer to infrastructure, and, well, are already there: We have more than enough of them. We need to reuse also because we can no longer afford to waste natural resources we cannot replenish.”
As technological advances have made nearly any conceivable structure and decoration possible—at least in theory—reuse appeals to more than just pragmatism and ideology. Good design needs constraints. Reuse is a fruitful mode of practice, forcing designers to confront their clichés and assumptions about how programs should relate to each other and what aesthetic values of the past mean to us now—and in the future.