Editor: I read with interest ‘Convert retail assets to flex space’ and it got me thinking. Will we ever see a new ‘shopping centre’ built?

Not any time soon. But there will be many developments with retail involved – for example, new high streets or town centres such as Canada Water. Indeed, back in the 1960s, when someone asked ‘where is your nearest shopping centre?’ they meant local shops or high street. Perhaps the term could recapture its old meaning?

Looking over some second-tier town shopping centres recently,

I thought to myself: what were the creators of this thinking? The retail planning back then was almost anti-town centre. There was a desire to make centres ‘watertight’ – once the customers were in, keep them in with very few ways out to the other retail offerings. Dwell time, customer retention – to hell with the rest of the town.

I think the recrafting of many of these centres will create a steady stream of projects once the industry has stabilised. Some of the earlier shopping centres (1960s mostly) did have libraries, health centres, gyms and swimming pools, and not so much of the department-store anchors.

It has been the planning of later centres and the ‘greed’ for a commercial machine rather than serving the community that has been the ruination of the shopping centre as a building type.

In all my time at CallisonRTKL, we have always tried to major on the customer experience and placemaking at the front-end of projects, long before they became overused buzzwords. Inevitably, commercial considerations determined the level to which those things were implemented. Things have changed – today, the experience is everything.

We need to get into a mindset that allows us to see a successful project as being a piece of strategic thinking, where multiple uses – including flexspace, as Richard Morris points out – come together to create positive outcomes for all stakeholders, particularly the community.

Nick Guy, principal at CallisonRTKL