Ashford Designer Retail Outlets

Ashford Designer Retail Outlets - Design

The defining element of the design is the light-weight tensile fabric roof, supported from 22 bright orange steel masts and attached to the ground by tension cables attached to circular concrete pads anchors. The tent is undulating in form, rising to high points where the vertical steel masts act as counterpoints to the predominantly horizontal composition. The tent wraps around the leaf-shaped plan, joining at the northern end of the site. Here, pedestrians and train passengers arrive, passing a tourist information centre, a public display area, management suites and a food court. Those travelling by car arrive from the southern end of site where they gain access to the landscaped car park at the centre of the development.

The roof, the longest continuous tent structure in the world and covering an area of 30 square kilometres, shelters the ring of single storey units below. The units themselves, glazed on the inner face and clad in solid blue panels to the rear, are highly flexible insulated ‘boxes’. Each unit is air-conditioned with bright yellow external air handling units located on the rear of the units.

The boxes can be rapidly reconfigured, allowing for changing retail demands and a large number of occupants with varying requirements. This flexibility is achieved through the removal and erection of light-weight partitions and the reconfiguration of shop fronts as required. The units are serviced from the rear, directly accessible from the service road, thereby minimising interruptions to the shop fronts and removing the need to disrupt the public spaces.

The centre has provided significant employment opportunities within the town centre and has brought a new commercial focus to the city of Ashford.

Within a clear and unified organisational structure, the individual retail units are capable of a high degree of flexibility and can respond rapidly to changing retail demands and space requirements.