Buying: Alternative Designs for Shops

Buying: Alternative Designs for Shops


The aim of the “Buying” competition is to develop design proposals for the shop typology, intended as a space – either material or immaterial – where goods or services are available to the public.
The participants are asked to create innovative and unconventional projects on this theme, questioning the very basis of the notion of the shop. In the recent years, a series of new initiatives have emerged in relation to the shopping experience.
Take for example IKEA’s app that lets users see products in their own space before purchasing them, by integrating AR technology; or the ASOS mobile app, where users upload photos of looks they like and receive suggestions for a selection of similar styles to buy instantly. Even grocery shopping has become effortless with home delivery, and one of the biggest supermarkets in Britain has developed an app, through which shoppers can have up to 20 items delivered to their door within an hour.
Fueled by technology shopping has evolved in unanticipated ways, with the biggest trend across all sectors, the fragmentation of the buying journey. This means that digital and physical are constantly interconnected, providing the customers with the maximum of information prior to purchase, which in turn renders them a lot more powerful in making their own purchasing decisions.
Besides the technological conveniences, more and more brands find ways to enhance the shopping experience in their physical stores, aiming to obtain value beyond their commercial use, like London’s House of Vans, which opened a custom BMX and skatepark in the bottom of its flagship store, or Nordstorm Local, the innovative “service hub” the fashion brand has launched in the US, that has no inventory, but a pick-up service, tailors, personal stylists, a shoe-repair shop, a barber, and other services.
Within this context, with critical thinking and creative attitude, the participants are urged to investigate how the shopping experience can be reformed in the future, and respectively, how the concept of the shop as a space with material and immaterial characteristics can be reinvented. Designers are asked to create an artefact, merging considerable programmatic innovation and valuable design tools. The proposal can be a device, a piece of furniture, an interior design project, a pavilion, a building, or an urban plan. Scale of intervention, program dimensions, and location are not given, and they can be arranged by the participants to better suit their project.
Some basic topics of investigation to approach the competition theme can already be deduced from the definition of the word “shop”:

shop noun [C]

A building or part of a building where goods or services are sold.
As follows, very essential aspects of conventional shops can be questioned:
– In what ways has the concept of the shop already
deviated from its material status into the realm of the digital? Will the web, social media or AR technologies make the idea of the shop as a building or part of a building obsolete? If so, what will replace it?
– While the term “goods” usually implies physical items, “services” are acts of assistance, thus intangible. What kind of spatial implications does this distinction produce? How can shops adapt to accommodate both, as our societies are heading towards convergence in most sectors?
– How do shops as physical or digital entities mediating between the customer and the seller, encourage buying and more generally, consuming in our societies? Should design be employed as a means to enhance the shopping urge or should it attempt to mediate it or possibly reorient it towards more meaningful alternatives? How would a shop be shaped to achieve these aims?
– Why do we necessarily need to buy or sell stuff in shops, while ideas for alternate modes of economy have already been put in practice? Is it possible that the shop of the future will have nothing to sell? If so, how can we imagine its spatial manifestation then?

These are questions to suggest to the participants as possible fields of investigation. Each project can tackle one or more of the issues suggested, as well as raising new ones in relation to the competition topic. Just try to be as creative and unconventional as possible.
If you want to receive more useful insights on the theme of the competition subscribe to our newsletter. You will get articles, essays and references from our editorial team.


WINNERS (3 Prizes)
1.000 euros
Publication in the Non Architecture Competitions books
Publication on the Non Architecture Competitions website
Reviews in digital magazines and several architecture blogs
3 Books by DOM Publisher

Publication in the Non Architecture Competitions book
Publication on the Non Architecture Competitions website
Reviews in digital magazines and several architecture blogs

FINALISTS (38 Prizes)
Publication in the Non Architecture Competitions book
Publication on the Non Architecture Competitions website


Carlo Ratti – Director of the MIT Senseable City Lab Founder and Director of Carlo Ratti Associati

Seetal Solanki – Director and Founder of materials research design studio Ma-tt-er and Visiting Tutor on the Interior Design programme at the Royal College of Art

Mariabruna Fabrizi and Fosco Lucarelli – Founders of MICROCITIES and Socks-studio (to be confirmed)


1–15 February 2019 – Special Registration (30 €) period
16 February -15 March 2019 – Early Registration (45 €) period
16 March -15 April 2019 – Regular Registration (60 €) period
16 – 27 April 2019 – Late Registration (75 €) period
15 April 2019 – Submission opened on our website
30 April 2019 – Submission Deadline (23.59 GMT+2)
21-26 May 2019 – Winners announcement
21 May 2019 – Call for Materials for the “Buying – Non Architectural Shops” book starts
21 June 2019 – Call for Materials for the “Buying – Non Architectural Shops” book ends
1 September 2019 – The “Buying – Non Architectural Shops” book is available