Ernests Cerbulis


“Look how bright. Look how full of psychic data. Waves and radiation. All the letters and numbers are here, all the colors of the spectrum, all the voices and sounds, all the code words and ceremonial phrases. We just have to know how to decipher it.”
- Noah Baumbach, “White Noise”

In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, the role of the heart of department stores, supermarkets, has evolved, as they have become some of the few safe indoor spaces. Equipped with ventilation and air-conditioning systems, they provide for an in-person experience of purchasing essential goods. Shopping for products is a steady and constant process that will not be affected by the rapid changes in global events. However, the department store is more than just a shopping center, it is a data system serving us. Its success is dependent on quality of the information and data it collects,
interprets, and disseminates to its customers.

Architects have criticized the design of supermarkets, focusing on their environmental impact and sustainability rather than their functionality as a system used to reach a broader audience. However, the role of this research room is not defined solely by its physical space. Small and medium-sized ones can supplement their inventory with product lines 24/7. The availability of goods and services is no longer limited by the size of the store or the number of shelves but rather by global crisis situations and
their frequency. Even a 70 m2 space can function as a supermarket if it serves its primary function as a user-created data system, upon which the logistics chain and marketing campaign depend.

This shift in the role of the “large store” (lielveikals, in Latvian) has led unnoticed to a shared functional space, which lacks the architectural features that architects are accustomed to seeing in their renders, and future scenarios. It does not offer a unique or thoughtful spatial experience, ignores acoustics, and substitutes daylight. Instead, it provides rules, directions, and a labyrinth of pathways designed to keep visitors inside for as long as possible. Nevertheless, in all countries, supermarkets look similar, and only the goods on offer vary, supporting either local production or internationally recognized food and household goods brands.

The large retail space offers possibilities for its use in the future. A laboratory of the future should be a space to research new technologies, products, and services. It should be a place to develop new solutions and ideas. Such a laboratory should be open to the public, allowing people to experience a sense of involvement and participate in demonstrations and performances. It is also an important tool for promoting collaboration among businesses, academic institutions, research-and-development organizations, government agencies, and people. The future laboratory is a supermarket.

A laboratory of the future might feature ideas, designs, concepts, and proposals that accommodate the unique needs and expectations of the community, various individuals, and further preferences. These proposals can be categorized into distinct themes, such as sustainability, urban mobility, public spaces, housing typologies, infrastructure, etc. By creating an accessible and visually engaging physical + digital platform, the laboratory can showcase these design proposals, enabling community members to cast their votes and offer feedback. As the projects move into implementation and monitoring stages, continuous community involvement ensures that the built environment aligns with the desired outcomes and addresses the diverse needs and lifestyles of the community members. This approach fosters a more participatory and responsive decision-making process within the realms of architecture and urban planning and as well as within the impactful products presented at the Venice Biennale.