The Poet of Retail Architecture | Dawn Clark

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Dawn Clark, SVP of Store Design, Architecture and Construction at Nordstrom, gave us a look into her life of inspiration, exploring the world and what it means to design a well thought out store. Her words describing the places that influence her are poetic and never shy away from the true reason she got into architecture herself.

The way Dawn Clark approaches architecture is spiritual. It’s more than her job, more than her passion.

For Dawn, architecture is overwhelming.

Dawn looks at the world through extremely perceptive eyes. She designs retail spaces, elevating architecture to the beauty and majesty of nature. The shopping experience becomes a sensorial experience, for humans to interact with the brand, with the space, and with each other.

Nordstrom Manhattan Flagship by Dawn Clark. Inspiration from the Waves.


The customer journey she designs for Nordstrom aims at bringing people together.

I think back to the experiences that I have had. Like the grand bazaar in Istanbul, like the Souks of Marrakech, like the Berber markets in the Atlas Mountains and the further out you go, the more essential nature of retail you experience.

If you go to those places what you see is what makes retail great is how human beings connect with each other, and how they share their own creative output. If you want to discover what is unique about a place, you go to the markets, you go to the stores. So, when you’re creating a retail environment, you’re creating a canvas for this human interaction, it must be conductive to these connections, it must be expansive.”


Dawn Clark

Dawn replaces words with patterns from the Earth, the Pacific tides and the salty ocean wind. Her architectural perspective embodies the forces of nature blended with geometries in time and space.

I think we express how we see the world, in our work. In architecture I see forests, I see mountains, I see sand patterns, I see waves, I see geological strata, I see rivers, the arch of the sun, the luminosity of the moon, and I see the fine structures formed by the forces of nature.”

Nordstrom by Dawn Clark. Inspired by Sand and Geological Strata.

Architecture makes us feel with all our senses, and not just with our vision. As Dawn Clark explains:

“Store design embodies more than just a space to sell merchandise. It is a place where a brand can interact with its consumers, showcase itself and hopefully connect with consumers enough to develop brand loyalty.

While you might think you are experiencing the space through what you see, actually, in your brain, your sensing body is really much more about touch, meaning hearing, and smelling, and sound of surfaces and their reflection of light and peripheral sensory experiences.”

Dawn Clark, landscape photography

Dawn believes the qualities of a well-designed store are this. Great stores sort of take you into this other world, which you hadn’t experienced. This exploratory journey is always different, so when you come in it should be fresh, it should be new. It’s always changing, and that is sort of a portal, so when you go there you should feel this opening of inspiration and creativity. It’s also a mirror: in the mirror is a reflection of what is happening in you and in your world, so it should feel relevant, it should feel of the moment. It’s always changing, and nothing is permanent.”

Architecture is about functionality, but most importantly it is about feelings, senses and emotions. “Good architecture function well, solves problems, but great architecture is poetic, it’s beautiful, it inspires people, it creates opportunities for humans to be creative in the world. I believe you should design with your heart to be right, not with your eyes and your mind.”

by Elena Parise


Dawn Clark

Dawn Clark is a great professional, with an inspiring voice. And as of today, she’s one of Our MiNDs.

Stay tuned for the full video of her interview, going live January 2018.