Planning Guide for Resilient Retail

October 14, 2021

Rethinking commercial design for a post-pandemic world

Our new Planning guide for resilient retail is the result of “COVIDesign”, an applied, multidisciplinary research project that brought together over 20 hand-picked experts under the supervision of Architecture Without Borders Québec. The guide examines the planning and service design of retail stores, restaurants, and groceries from the perspective of resilience and mitigating the pandemic’s economic, social, and environmental impacts. It is intended for anyone wanting to make informed business-design decisions to implement enduring, high-quality, attractive, and effective solutions that go beyond any temporary health adaptations. A must-read before taking any action.

As Montréal was emerging from the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bureau du design launched “COVIDesign,” an applied, multidisciplinary research project. In the wake of the emergency measures adopted to assist retailers, which included production of a COVID adaptation guide for small businesses, co-ordination of the project was entrusted to Architecture Without Borders Québec, based on its experience assisting some 160 commercial establishments in adapting to health measures at the height of the pandemic.


A call for professionals was issued to form a working group for this project and an advisory panel comprising design and architecture professionals; marketing, business and sociology experts, ergonomics and universal access consultants. To fuel the discussion, the group studied reference documents and surveyed inspiring international initiatives. A call for ideas was made among the local professionals in the fields of architecture and design. Montréal business owners were consulted and asked for input, while leaders from various commercial sectors were invited to share their thoughts on pandemic-related issues. 

This entire process resulted in the development of the Design Guide for Resilient Businesses, Rethinking Commercial Design After the Pandemic. In addition to being the first reference document on this issue for Montréal, UNESCO City of Design, it contributes to implement the Montréal Agenda 2030 for Quality and Exemplarity in Design and Architecture

Good design is based on practices and processes that combine sustainability, creativity, and innovation. Businesses may take advantage of design and architecture to enhance the quality and appeal of our neighbourhoods and living environments.

What is it for?

The guide identifies functional, aesthetic, and digital improvements that help make a business more appealing and engaging for both customers and staff, either in a post-pandemic setting or in the face of other similar waves or threats. It contains useful references for obtaining assistance, support, or professional advice.

Whenever a business’s environment requirements change, the business owner must take time to consider the way forward, and this is a strategic moment to engage in a process of properly planning and designing any work that needs to be done. The guide is a useful reference for this process. It offers solutions for every step a business customer takes, whether purchases are made in store or online. A checklist allows users to review key recommendations so that nothing is overlooked.


The Bureau du design would like to thank all the partners who worked on this project, in particular the staff at Architecture Without Borders Québec.

More information

For more information about this project or to request access to the entire research report, including literature and references, guest presentations, working group meeting notes and more, please email