SOLUTION CENTRE was founded in 1997 with the aim of becoming “the cutting edge destination for the digital generation”. They are the leading Authorised Apple Resellers in Zimbabwe offering sales, support, repairs, maintenance, and training. Solution Centre provides Apple based solutions to Education, Enterprise, Content Creators and home users, providing a wide range of add-ons such software, printers, storage, etc to work with these solutions. They also represent Bose offering the full range of Audio for Video, portable speakers and headphones. Solution Centre has their main branch at 118 Enterprise Road in Highlands.
Following on the success of their Arundel branch Solution Centre has recently opened their new flagship branch at Village Walk in Borrowdale. And a very smart retail and support centre it is too! The shop is actually two shops combined into one in an unusual L-shape so that they have frontage facing onto the parking area as well as onto the walkway leading to Pick n Pay. Apart from the retail merchandising space they also needed a sales desk, a tech desk, a back of house area for receiving and dispatch, and a workshop area for repairing customers’ machines, so it was a fairly complicated design brief.
All of these specifications needed to be adequately addressed and the L-shape layout presented some particular design challenges as the staff needed to be able to see the whole shop at the same time. Director of Solution Centre Paul Georgeou approached well known local firm, Architexture Spatial Design, to come up with a comprehensive design solution. The team at Architexture Spatial Design was lead by Bruce Rowlands who defined and refined the overall concept, together with Gemma Temlett who was responsible for detailing.
The design and drawings took Rowlands designed a striking, super-modern interior that fulfils all the specs in the design brief, while at the same time creating an innovative brand image for Solution Centre. Rowlands chose to incorporate black walls, with an oxide tinted skim finish, to highlight the products on display, which are, for the most part, white. The suspended ceiling has a high gloss black finish which reflects light onto the shop floor and at the same time almost seems to disappear. Because the ceilings are quite high, and punctuated with white spotlights and white air conditioning vents, it feels spacious and not in the least oppressive.
The black shell also gives the shop a kind of Star Trek space ship feel. The focal point of the shop is a large disc which reaches from floor to ceiling painted white in the centre with magenta and black border lines. Seen from the parking space entrance the disc is set slightly off centre so customers can immediately see that the space flows around the corner. The disc also serves to conceal the back workshop space and defines the overall look of the shop. The circular motif is repeated in the concave ‘fins’ which support the shelving displays, and in the layout of the floor tiles. The fins are deeper on the ends and shallower in the centre and the floor tiles follow the circular layout – pale wood grain porcelain tiles for the main floor space with a curved black section following the profile of the shelving. The fins also help to conceal the sides of the products on display – usually not a particularly attractive view – so the merchandise is always seen face on. The shelving racks provide a flexible and neat display system.
The main sales desk is a simple white slab, constructed of timber, with a high gloss spray finish, that almost seems to float in place. It’s set at a convenient chest height so the staff and customers can comfortably stand next to it without having to sit or crouch over. The desk is positioned so that staff can see both sides of the shop at the same time. There’s a smaller ‘Tech Desk’ set back and to the side of the main sales desk, in the Pick n Pay leg of the L-shape, where customers can consult with the Apple Certified Macintosh Technicians for specialised advice and assistance. There’s a third white desk or table with Apple products on display in the main body of the shop. It’s minimalist in design with simple square legs and a deep slab top.
The table is designed to meet Apple’s specs for displaying merchandise. Although Solution Centre is a licensed Apple retailer it’s not an Apple shop – Apple has really detailed design specifications for their dedicated retail outlets, and non Apple owned stores are forbidden by Apple from trying to appear as Apple Stores. They are encouraged to reflect the individual identity of the Apple Authorised Reseller, in this case Solution Centre. Again the hollow structure of the desk means cables and power supplies can be hidden from view. The overall look of the shop is somewhat of a development from the design of the Arundel shop, also designed by Architexture Spatial Design. While it’s primarily very functional, aesthetically it creates brand awareness and a unique identity for the client.
Text by Michael Nott
Renderings and Photos by Architexture Spatial Design
Additional photos by Michele Fortmann