Table of Contents
This article aims to examine the influence of tenant and user types on small retail/lifestyle centre development in towns. This article will further investigate the configuration of tenant types based on user movement in shopping malls by stressing the importance of integrated open-air, pedestrian environments through analysing space syntax techniques. Focusing on natural movement theory – where human movement is affected by the configuration of space.
When referring to a shopping mall, the image of a diverse collection of retail stores that are arranged on one or more levels and is typically augmented by one or more anchor stores, food and dining establishments, and entertainment venues – being open-air or enclosed, is sketched within the minds of its users. Dating from 900 to 700 B.C.E., the Greek agora aided in establishing the concept of publicly presenting goods on rugs spread on the ground. In the 1st to 5th centuries C.E., Rome presented the first covered shopping space to the world—a revolutionary idea that allowed shoppers to be protected from the natural elements. Medieval market halls and town halls (11th – 16th centuries) were examples of shops appearing in buildings designed for other uses. Simultaneously, the Eastern bazaars, including the Great Bazaar at Istanbul (1461), were revolutionary in being one of the largest and oldest covered markets globally, with 61 covered streets and over 4,000 shops.
The contemporary shopping mall has become the epitome of a consumer society where people are encouraged to enter a fully closed, protected, and controlled space that offers many consumer goods. Because of the constant decline in the number of public space and the associated emergence of virtual-public spaces with limited access co-occurring with commercial culture aggression and the emergence of cultural spectacle, shopping malls have become an essential part of urban life. As well as providing one of the essential activities like marketing, they are also seen as new centres of social interaction and attraction, serving as authentic public spaces of their own kind.
Victor Gruen, the architect of the first modern shopping mall, claims that to provide a healthy urban social life, it is needed to create public spaces isolated from urban problems – a space for people to socially interact with others outside of their regular work or house environments.
Distribution of shop types concerning visitors’ movement using space syntax theory and methodology is examined to gain insight into the syntactic measures of integration, connectivity, circularity, sense of order, safety, and comfort through a mall’s spaces. While matching users’ demands for shopping and spending leisure time – all in the changing context of holiday, end-destination towns. Indeed, community shopping malls
Have proliferated across suburbs and townships in the early twenty-first century and are primarily driven by consumers’ demand for convenience and mirrors the typical enclosed shopping malls’ spread. Thus, contemporary global trends work towards creating meaningful shopping experiences that build loyalty in shoppers and challenge the constant nature of the enclosed, postmodern shopping mall and its users, which is widely criticised due to its lack of humanness and failure to provide the opportunity for lingering and pause. This research is underpinned by Tuan’s (1977) seminal theory that place is of pause. The metaphor of Tuan’s (1977) ‘tree’ illustrates how places to pause and gather can elicit place attachment regarding both the small pause and gathering place and the setting within which it is located.
1.1. Topics excluded in this article
- Discuss the socio- economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in detail
- Study and discuss small-town prototypes used
- Discuss tenant types in detail
- Explain or study space syntax techniques and consumer society data in detail
2 Articulating the Shopping Centre
Shopping malls have become an essential part of urban life in most urban cities worldwide, providing essential activities like marketing. They are also new centres of social interaction and attraction, serving as public spaces of their kind. Victor Gruen, the architect of the first modern shopping mall, claims that to provide a healthy urban social life, it is needed to create public spaces isolated from urban problems where people get exposure to social interaction out of work or home scenarios. Likewise, today shopping malls are urban spaces where people come together, socialise, and engage in socio-cultural and recreational activities. Besides the abundance of shopping opportunities, all these activities can now occur in a comfortable and safe environment. Following safety and comfort, many environmental factors are also under control in such spaces as car traffic and noise, security, air conditions, odour, pollution, and noise control. Hence, their architectural structures are vital because of being a vital component of a physical environment that have crucial impacts on visitors (White & Sutton, 2001; Erkip, 2003; Fong, 2003; Kurubayashi & Kishimoto, 2009; Kim et al. 2012). One of the shopping mall’s primary aims is attracting people to their shops and supporting activity spaces within an architecturally designed space with considered spatial configurations that enable and motivate people for spending more time in these spaces wander around and shop as much as possible.
By offering a sense of order, safety and comfort through the spaces while matching users’ demands for shopping and spending leisure time, researchers have focused on malls’ spatial dynamics, spatial use, and social structure to understand why people are attracted to a shopping centre. The possible answer? Plenty of shopping opportunities, comfortable physical conditions, various social and entertainment activities, and a need for a secure space for their families to enjoy.
Traditional shopping malls face an identity crisis due to changing consumer preferences and shopping habits that have resulted in diminished foot traffic and reduced sales. Technology has made it possible for consumers to order products of any kind from any corner of the world. If you want such people to step out of their homes, you must lure them with a compelling reason – a new look to their repeated ritual of shopping. It is not surprising that many shopping mall operators are trying to reinvent and reposition their properties, looking at the transformation of malls into an upscale destination that offers multi-sensory entertainment, curated around an exclusive customer experience that will encourage visitors to keep coming back. In recent years, open-air shopping centres has garnered traction due to the grim future of traditional shopping malls because, unlike enclosed malls, an open-air shopping centre includes rows of stores spread over an area with a sidewalk or pavement in front – an organised “high street” with all the comforts of a traditional mall prototype. Because of this reasoning, many retailers and shopping mall owners are shifting their focus to open-air shopping centres – not an entirely new concept of shopping and social interaction.
2.1 Understanding the architectural design, methodology and planning layout of a shopping centre – a model for consumption
The typical enclosed shopping mall is designed to stimulate consumption rather than social interaction primarily. While the primary focus is on drawing consumers to the stores of rent-paying tenants (Anderson 2014: [sp]), it is essential to note that shopping malls are, in essence, a publicly accessible space. The popularity of the shopping mall with its consumers directly influences its attractiveness to national and international tenants. It enables the shopping mall owner to increase his rent (under the principle of supply and demand) (Anderson 2014: [sp]). Therefore, where Gruen’s design approach treated the shopping mall’s function as a social space primarily over the shopping mall’s role as a consumer space, the typical enclosed postmodern shopping mall’s design reverses these roles’ importance.
Typically, the focus is to market the venture as a good business opportunity to secure anchor tenants, like supermarket groups, restaurant chains and apparel companies. These companies are typically linked with good credit ratings and good reputations. These anchor tenants (Barber 2002:31) are also accompanied by their established and loyal customer bases and offers these large corporations to have the buying power to offer discount prices on products; or convince consumers through advertising that prices are low (Butler 2011: [sp]). This strategy ensures that revenue and filled retail space are guaranteed from the moment the shopping mall’s doors are opened. It is therefore of great importance to understand the relationship beyond that of visitor frequency and the configuration of the space in a shopping centre – all of which is dependent on the morphology of convex spaces in an asymmetrical relationship Hillier et al. (1993). The attractors, aka the shops or displays, are considered in this relationship through critical semantic contributions within the overall space, spatial configuration, and visitor behaviour in shopping malls. Understanding users’ cultural differences, differences in architectural approaches, and management decisions in different malls, distribution of shop types, and the spatial configuration has significant effects on visitors’ frequency and movement in shopping malls. The distribution of shop types concerning visitors’ movement using space syntax theory and methodology is used to understand better the architectural design, methodology, and layout measures used in the integration, connectivity, and circularity of shopping centres.
‘’Circularity” is a measure that reflects the geometric relation of a space. This relation decreases in a structure where the interconnecting convex spaces are tightened, narrowed, and concentrated on a single field and results in a high mean integration. The circularity value increases in interconnecting, tightening spaces and should be interpreted particularly around the “integration” and “connectivity” values of space’s configurational system where integration reflects a more global set of values.
On the other hand, perception and movement-related issues are vital in understanding the morphology of shopping layouts by looking at their syntactic and semantic dimensions. Kuipers et al.’s (2003) study showcase the people’s cognitive maps of movement using a shopping centre and describes how visual perception and cognition play a vital role in navigation, movement, and wayfinding. In the context of shopping centre settings, visual perception and accessibility of the spaces also play a significant role in movement and wayfinding.
Like Kuipers et al.’s (2003) approach, Dalton’s (Zimring & Dalton, 2003) approach to decisions of people in terms of visual perception of the space, Zimring & Dalton was interested in decisions that steered people in their route and which decisions that are made at path junctions. “She created an environment in which participants were presented with a variety of different junction types and then noted the sequence of decisions.” Dalton conclusively found that “Angles that deviated least from a continuous straight heading were preferable to sharp turns.”. Another interesting finding was “a strong evidence that participants tended to select routes that approximated a straight line and avoided routes that were particularly convoluted or meandering.” (Zimring & Dalton, 2003). According to Hillier (Hillier, 1996; Hillier et al., 1993), the theory of space syntax claims that buildings act in relation with the movement of its user and how it is generated and controlled. In terms of syntactic factors, it is found that more integrated spaces were more vibrant and frequented by more visitors, while more segregated spaces were less crowded (Penn & Sailor, 2010). People tended to gather in places with high connectivity (Nubani & Wineman, 2005). Environmental aspects in the context of spatial hierarchy within a building complex or a public square or a park influencing the expected flows of movement are defined with “Natural Movement Theory” through this phenomenon (Hillier et al., 1993; Hillier and Iida, 2005). Therefore, we may argue that people move under environmental aspects, and spatial configuration drives movement flows in building space per their configurations and spatial order within the spaces.
Looking at the reasons for users to visit a specific shopping centre, Goss and Akinci (Goss, 1993; Akinci, 2013) found many factors that affect the preference of users and found it to be connected to travel time and size of the shopping centre, where these critical factors also increase frequencies of visitors in shopping centres (Shiffman, 1983; Bloch et al. 1994; Salcedo, 2003; Erkip, 2003). Factors like easy accessibility and being on the route towards home, people also prefer the shopping mall according to their demands (Erkip, 2003; Akinci, 2013). In the case of a person seeking a target product, consumers prefer shopping centres to provide for their need, even if more travel distance is required, as allegedly, a human takes action after mostly personal impulse or a specific purpose (Penn, 2003; Garip & Ünlü 2009).
2.2 Looking at the historical origin of ”markets.”
In the work of Ergun Kocaili (2010:21-44), he shows that market spaces were originally impermanent. Ancient markets were places where people would informally meet and gather to trade goods at large open junctions. With one trader’s stand, open-air or tented, more traders would add their stands until a bustling network of diverse goods and services came to occupy the otherwise space (Ergun Kocaili 2010:21-44) – a process that corresponds to what Hillier and Hanson (1984) describe as “aggregation”. With time progression, markets were assigned to market days at these central nodes of intersections and later explicitly designated for trade, both informal and formal (Ergun Kocaili 2010:21-44). With time these marketplaces became permanent fixtures, involving into market squares such as those established in medieval times in Europe and into the early twenty-first century, like that of Vienna, which inspired Gruen’s conception of the shopping mall (Mars 2015:[sp]; Ergun Kocaili 2010).
Considering the definition of space as motion and place as pause, then these pre-industrial marketplaces are places that emerged because of pause for a specific activity. This pause for a specific purpose allows for the spatial organisation. It proves that the irregular form of the pre-industrial marketplace developed organically over time due to an active, accumulative aggregation process. This aggregation process is then understood as the unconscious design of a society that produced it and a consensus and agreement system that defined the community that sustained it (Augé 1995:59; Lefebvre 1991:73,83; Hillier and Hanson 1984:10). Thus, the pre-industrial marketplace was created through an organic design process, absent of “theoretical or aesthetic pretence” (Relph 1976:68) and instead, “made unselfconsciously” by a “unique group of place-makers”. “Harmony and ‘humaness’” of the pre-industrial marketplace are characterised by “a working with site and climate, a respect for other people and their buildings, and hence for the complete environment both man-made and natural”. For this reason, the pre-industrial marketplace is regarded as a place that directly reflects and underpins the needs, wants, values, and beliefs of the culture that created it.
Similarly, the architectural character of the Arab traditional souk possessed an original concept. Sadly, it has lost much of its original features, authentic character, and heritage of the oriental souk due to the contemporary urban environment it finds itself in. As early as 2000 BC, the souk had developed into two different forms closely related to what can be experienced nowadays. The first type consisted of a large enclosure with a spacious courtyard surrounded by shaded colonnades, and the second in the form of a linear pathway, roofed or semi-rooted, and flanked by shops and stores.
Urban space in the traditional souk grew as a direct response to its users’ functional needs and building know-how. Available construction materials, climatic conditions, and Islamic ethics principles led the way for contemporary architects and builders to creatively construct the modern-day prototype souk to represent a symbiosis between man and his context, ultimately creating an urban environment that was human in scale. Although simple and formal in design, the hierarchy of spatial linkages within the souk provides an orderly system that allows consistency and change while presenting the simultaneous flow of harmonious spatial experiences based on numbers and geometry. Traditionally, the souk’s main attraction was the shopping spine and the continuity in the souk’s linear movement system, which began from the main town gates and penetrated through its nodal plaza. This concept quickly reveals itself in today’s traditional and open-aired lifestyle centres – presenting architectural elements of hierarchy, path, rhythm, linear movement, connectivity, and integration. The markings of Natural Movement Theory.
2.3 Gruen’s original shopping mall concept
In the early twenty-first century, shopping malls and suburban Sprawl are deemed indivisible, and shopping malls have become the symbol of the homogeneity of a capitalist-consumerist postmodern existence (Olivier 2008; Van Eeden 2005; Barber 2002; Crawford 2002). According to Buket Ergun Kocaili (2010:69,70), in a dissertation entitled Evolution of shopping malls: recent trends and the question of regeneration, the first shopping mall was the open-air suburban shopping mall, the Northgate Shopping Mall located in Seattle, which opened in 1950 (Ergun Kocaili 2010:70-73). Although the open-air suburban shopping mall was America’s first shopping mall, it was the enclosed suburban mall that pioneered contemporary shopping malls as we know them today (Ergun Kocaili 2010:80). Indeed, it is the enclosed shopping mall that changed the nature of the enclosed shopping narrative.
Victor Gruen, an Austrian-emigrated architect who moved to the United States of America in 1938, is famously described as the inventor of the shopping mall (Mars 2015:[sp]; Ergun Kocaili 2010:74). Although Gruen began his career in America as a shop window designer, the architect was concerned with the lack of vibrant civic life in the country’s suburbs (Mars 2015:[sp]; Ergun Kocaili 2010:74). Gruen’s original concept of the enclosed shopping mall manifested itself in Southdale Center (1956), Minnesota. It was primarily inspired by the vibrant civic life of Old-World town and market squares. The development of this first enclosed shopping mall was said to have been motivated by humanistic intentions and the lack thereof: to create meaningful public space that could foster social interaction, connectedness, and a sense of community (Mars 2015; Ergun Kocaili 2010; Crawford 2002).
The mid-twentieth century saw urban populations increase substantially, causing urban centres to no longer carry the ever-growing number of inhabitants. People escaped the city’s overcrowded, dirt and chaotic new nature and found the relative peace of housing developments in the suburbs on the city centres’ outskirts (Ergun Kocaili 2010:69,70; Crawford 2002:23). Along with the move to the suburbs, the widespread increase in car ownership was observed; the prevalence of cars as the primary means of transport meant that suburban layouts came to be dispersed, disordered and inhospitable to pedestrians (Gruen cited in Ergun Kocaili 2010:70; Crawford 2002:24).
In this context, Gruen played down the exterior of Southdale Center to emphasise the mall’s interior – especially that of the skylight-covered central court that stimulated both consumerism and relaxation; the interior design created a leisurely, relaxed atmosphere attitude toward space. Gruen made this ambience possible by focusing on facilities for social interaction, rest, and pause. Gruen envisioned this as a place where a sense of community bloomed, the heart of the community’s public social life within a local suburban setting. Even so, according to Gruen and Smith (cited in Ergun Kocaili 2010:5), the inspiration for Gruen’s community-oriented shopping environment came from the marketplaces in ancient history.
According to studies, shopping centres are still seen as places that provide space for exchange and retail. The shopping centre is seen primarily as a commercial area, and it is meant to gather demand and supply for such a demand under one roof while providing space for retail. Nowadays, the shopping centre is becoming a common area where opportunity is presented to satisfy social needs by providing spaces for such social interaction demands (Reikli, 2012). While shopping centres have become places of social interaction and considered the new, modern marketplace, these new centres cannot be used as public spaces since they are privately owned and highly controlled (Stillerman & Salcedo, 2012).
Similarly, critics think that shopping malls supplant previous public spaces—like the city park— as it has come to serve a different public function. People can frequent a park to stroll, strike up a conversation with a stranger, or relax. Simultaneously, a mall is designed with one specific purpose in mind—consumption with non-verbal established stringent dress, behaviour, and activity codes. Malls often have the appearance of civic participation and social integration, like offering the aged morning walks before stores open. Still, these forms of civics and sociality are always aimed toward the end-goal of consumption. Unlike the vision promoted by Victor Gruen—because of many contemporary malls located on the outskirts of cities, shopping malls promote the automobile’s use, which has a significant impact on the environment. Because of their increasing size, shopping malls use incredible amounts of natural resources, promoting urban Sprawl that Gruen noted in a 1978 interview. He lamented the archetype that he had helped create of lulling the consumer into patterns of overconsumption.
3 Humanistic Architecture
It becomes clear that the need for humanistic interior design and spatial layout of shopping malls is digressing and requires a deep sensitivity and purposeful empathy for other human beings, including a sense of identity and belonging, and the attachment to a place, within the otherwise rationalist framework of the built environment (Königk & Bakker 2012:115; Guerin & Kwon 2010:113). However, according to architectural theorists Bill Hillier and Julienne Hanson (1984:2), the oversimplification of a building to an object and subsequent lack of understanding of buildings’ social meaning is problematic for architectural theory and implies an intrinsic impediment to socially responsive approaches to design. According to Hillier and Hanson (1984:2), the examination of buildings’ social meaning is so complicated that “it is eventually easier to talk about appearances and styles and to try to manufacture a socially relevant discourse out of these surface properties”. However, this simple approach neglects “the fundamental sociology of buildings” (Hillier & Hanson, 1984:2).
Humanistic geography is described as a philosophical approach to human geography (geography based in the social sciences) that “puts human experience and understanding at the centre of geography” (Gregory 2009; Sharp 2009:356). Humanistic geography provides a human-centred alternative approach to thinking about and understanding space and place notions, which are inseparable from design and architecture.
3.1 Understanding the social logic of Tuan’s ‘tree’ – place is of pause.
Of the most prominent humanistic geographers, Yi-Fu Tuan publicly rejected the scientific rationality behind shopping centres’ spatial configuration (Ley & Samuels 1978:8). Tuan innovated his field through his book, Space and Place: The perspective of experience (1977), which focuses on and quantifies space and place from human experience in an authentic manner (1977: v-vi. Space and Place: The perspective of experience (1977) provides a clear definition of space as movement and place as a pause moment. To Tuan (1977:6), a particular pause in movement offers human beings the opportunity to “get to know it better”, transforming that place in a specific space into a place that is inherently capable of great value.
Tuan (1977) further shows that space and place’s human experience is a comprehensive and worldwide phenomenon that shapes one’s mindset and the worldview of communities and cultures. Suggesting that our attachment to place is a simple “function of time” (Tuan 1977:179), Tuan showcases that place and community are co-created and inseparable. Over time, humans become intimately connected and attached to a place. Places are unconsciously created by a continuous process of a culture-specific design tradition that is not a “single, instantaneous occurrence” but involves being used, experienced, and lived in (Relph 1976:71).
3.2 A contemporary approach – Lifestyle centres
Accessibility is directly connected to the shopping centre’s typology, being open, semi-open and closed, and easily accessible and welcoming to the public by implementing various visual connection elements for shoppers to find the space they require. These visual connection elements include using colours and materials, frontage, depths, and transparency. From the aspect of visitors, home vicinity plays a significant role. While numerous authors researched the privatisation of public spaces in the city, they agree that one way of privatisation is based on public-private partnerships (Day, 1999; Melik, 2009; Slangen, 2005).
David Ellis (cited by Lo 2012: [sp]), principal of the international architecture firm Benoy, describes the new generation of shopping malls in the early twenty-first century to see the opening of the interior to exterior space. This trend of ‘’opening up’’ shopping malls includes natural light and establishing a visual connection between interior and exterior spaces (Lo 2012; Ergun Kocaili 2010). According to Lo (2012: [sp]), new shopping malls reject enclosed, artificially lit interiors of the twentieth century’s typical shopping mall prototype and focus on creating a fresh indoor atmosphere. This renewed approach demands the utilisation of glass to capitalise on natural light through introducing “massive glass roofs and facades”. The design is, therefore, able to offer “a more seamless connection between the indoor shopping space and the world outside” (cited in Lo 2012: [sp]). The emerging trend seems to create a seamless interior-exterior link to ‘’eliminate’’ boundaries between inside and outside. By including external spaces that are covered, a degree of shelter is offered. The shopping mall space’s opening-up includes the physical interflowing of interior and exterior space to create open-air shopping malls. This increased openness in shopping mall designs allows for a reconnection to the exterior natural environment while at the same time meeting developers’ common economic need to reduce operational costs by replacing artificial lighting with natural lighting and eradicating the need for air-conditioning – giving consumers a sense of achieving ethical consumption.
Olivier (2008:102,103) identifies a similar new generation of shopping malls in Africa: shopping malls that embrace an open, externalised architectural form. A prominent feature identified by Olivier (2008) is the encompassing of urban fabric integration that merges privately owned and public space through minimal boundaries – an architectural form of a “permeable mall with scattered facilities and edges frayed out into the surrounding residential fabric” (2008:102,103). Shopping mall design that opens-up to integrate the diversity and vibrancy of a pedestrian-oriented urban setting promises to include informality, a higher probability of encounters and a greater likeness to anthropological place. Olivier (2008) maintains that by not isolating shopping malls from their surroundings setting, shopping malls can offer a greater diversity of experience on both a social and spatial level. However, Steyn (cited in Olivier 2008:103) questions the practicality of shopping mall typologies that seem to “presuppose a crime-free society”. Since shopping malls have been known to be the targets of crime, this offers another challenge for our contemporary society’s architecture.
3.3 Places for pause and gather – Case Study: Ballito Lifestyle Centre
Yi-Fu Tuan (1977:6,139) suggests that space implies motion, movement, and mobility and that place are of pause and rest in motion: “each pause in movement makes it possible for a location to be transformed into a place” (Tuan 1977:6). Tuan uses the example of a tree in an open park space to illustrate the significance of places as “stage[s] for warm human encounters”. Tuan believes that artists’ everyday life expressions successfully “articulate subtle human experiences” – valuable tools to uncover universal values and constructions of reality and ordinary, everyday social encounters.
The Ballito Lifestyle Centre in the KwaZulu-Natal holiday destination, Ballito, offers several facilities that allow for pausing and gathering and is observed to be facilities and spaces to pause and gather in similarity to Tuan’s (1977) ‘tree’.
Date: 2017 – current
Location: Ballito, Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa
Architects: Evolution Architects
Shifting the focus from the traditional super-mall, one-stop-shop Generation-X millennia, to the landscape of smaller lifestyle developments with a focus on local flavour, consumer behaviour and desires of the Millennial Generation and work, play and live in one area, The Ballito Lifestyle Centre is the living example of just that. Catering for today’s shoppers’ desire for outdoor spaces and dining options with retail experiences unique to their locale, the Ballito Lifestyle Centre has woken up to this trend, utilising architectural agencies that offer respect for local context while utilising design principles that respond to the surrounding environments in their natural, urban, or residential essence.
Looking at the centre’s responsive design and the cultural identity of the surrounding community it pertains to, the Lifestyle Centre has provided an upmarket shopping experience to affluent residents and holidaymakers since 2001. What began as a strip-style centre has transformed into a popular local lifestyle to meet today’s consumer’s needs with a tangible experience beyond a method to promote sales but become a product of its means. Space was redesigned with the locals’ current lifestyle to service the town’s growth to come.
A combination of timber, exposed clay brickwork, off-shutter concrete, and Corten steel cladding was used for the centre’s exterior. In contrast, timber and raw clay brickwork softened the off-shutter concrete and exposed steel’s hardened feel. The sandblasted concrete and brickwork, which has been an admired finish and drawn attention to it, replaced the finish of existing brickwork walls and concrete beams and columns.
The interior offers various floor finishes to draw the shoppers’ eyes to various points of interest using various colours and textures in ornate cobbled paving and timber decking. The external environment is carried through indoors to complete a holistic experience, offering beauty, social interaction, and local flavour. Today’s shoppers crave and transform the shopping centres into local lifestyle centres for residents. The shopper journey of the future is an experience of a connected community, being inspired by the region while feeling right at home.
3.4 Places for meeting and encounters – Case Study: Legacy Yard, Umhlanga Arch
Location: Umhlanga, Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa
Architects: Multiply Group
It is established that places to pause and gather provide a social element within a surrounding setting. Yet, it has emerged that spontaneous meetings and encounters can occur in a certain degree of pause, and the coming together of individuals denotes a sense of gathering or “congregation”. In this way, spontaneous meetings and encounters can be described as nomadic pause and gathering.
The Legacy Yard enables visitors to stop, sit, pause, and gather as a regular fixture typical to their convenience shopping routines – bumping into acquaintances or friends as frequent and normal to their shopping trips. These spontaneous social encounters involve stopping along a walking path to gather in conversation with another person. The concept includes multiple vendors, all with a unique offering, making space an ‘’end-destination’’ and providing its anchor to the Umhlanga Arch complex’s retail node. The exterior and interior spaces were designed to be easy going with well-presented vendor spaces with a local flavour. The vendor outlets are all designed to be uniquely different in terms of concept, detailing and finishes. Visitors to the Legacy Yard (lower level) and Back Yard (rooftop) is treated with the unexpected and is visually exciting as their user navigates through space. The upmarket Legacy Yard based on a European-inspired high street and offers a dynamic, informal, yet exciting dining experience in a food-court-style setup. This consumption model appeals to modern customers, single diners, couples, families, business people, and large groups. The building consists of residential, commercial, hotel, and retail functions that are all stylish with an industrial feel.
The restaurants are all arranged around an open lawn, offering its visitor the delightful option of basking in the sun while enjoying your meal on the grass or lounging on the myriad benches scattered around. Many indoor options with breath-taking views are also available, where diners can share meals with friends from different restaurants.
3.5 Places for meeting and encounters – Case Study: INTERNATIONAL
Project Name: LinGang New City Community Shopping Center
Architects: Shanghai ZF Architectural Design
Area: 47353 m²
Located in the New City of Lingang, Pudong New Area, Shanghai, seven residential neighbourhoods have been built in the periphery successively and divided into three blocks, i.e., community commercial centre, commercial street and serviced apartment. Based on the “Market” concept, human scale spaces are created to attract and gather traffic to both banks of the river, providing a unique shopping experience close to nature.
Its architects describe the project as a modern community living centre (CLC), made up of traditional market commercial space to fully exploit the land’s potential by utilising the clustering of small commercial buildings to create a series of free spaces on a human scale. This architectural approach correctly reflects the unique ambience of the “Market” concept and attracts people from residential areas to commercial areas. Two “small markets” are placed along the river, starting from the two-bank-waterfront public life centre, the commercial centre with large volumes, high and low staggered stairs, green leisure plaza and river landscape. Like a “hill” of the market, a friendly scale transition between the river and commercial centre is created.
Eight stand-alone 1-3 storey shops are scattered on the northeast side with a 12-storey serviced apartment in an L shape located at the northeast corner and enclosed by two winding commercial streets, three plazas corners with freely arranged small commercial buildings. This architectural composition is used to create a free, changeable, and friendly spatial experience.
The two “small markets” along the river is seen as unique features of the project. Connected by a bridge, the two triangular landscape plazas become the spatial core of the whole development. Within the context, the waterfront space is a highly precious and active public activity space. The landscape system is there for centred around the pedestrian plazas on both banks and is the core node to create a “capillary green network” with the scattered space around the buildings to suit the local conditions. The walkway is also intentionally designed with a change of scene in the commercial retail space.
The commercial flow design once again reflects the core idea of the “Market” concept in the project. Every shop within the market’s multiple small houses is explicitly placed to enjoy excellent traffic flow and external image. Shoppers can fully experience the considerate spatial scale and commercial atmosphere. Every house, shop and corner are thereof treated differently, including the height, shape, colour, and slope of the houses, forming various free streets, corners, and small squares inside the market.
4 The Architectural-Community Identity
It is an agreed-upon reality that the convenience shopping mall market is highly competitive and is close to reaching a saturation level, particularly in affluent suburbs where this type of shopping mall first came about (Steyn 2014; South African retail space overtraded 2013; Prinsloo 2006). Hence, since limited demand remains for convenience shopping malls in these areas, astute retail property developers should consider turning to the “new breed” of shopping malls: lifestyle centres. Prinsloo (2005: [sp]) suggests that developers are shifting focus away from shopping malls “aimed solely at serving basic shopping and entertainment needs” in the twenty-first century. Instead, shopping malls should cater to retail needs, changing economic environments, peak and off-peak end-user types and even climatic conditions to appeal to consumers’ changing values and lifestyles. Ranging between 10,000 m² and 50,000 m² gross letting area (GLA), the lifestyle centre approach should be one taken by community shopping malls or small regional shopping malls (Prinsloo 2005: [sp]).
Tuan (1977:142-143) explains this approach in this theoretical approach in that the trees in Isherwood’s narrative are purposely planted to green the open space. In contrast, the trees’ “real value may lie as stations for unplanned human encounters”. These kinds of spontaneous encounters – bumping into a friend or acquaintance – may be considered ordinary, everyday occurrences. At the same time, Tuan (1977:143) holds that although overlooked, spontaneous social encounters are meaningful in enriching everyday life and enhancing well-being. Tuan (1977:143) reminds us that these types of “humble events can, in time, build up a strong sentiment for place”. The tree becomes a place that supports humble events and everyday encounters, communal activities that can nurture a sense of attachment to the tree as a place (Tuan 1977). Organic social interaction cannot be predicted or forced (Tuan 1977:141). Still, Tuan’s tree example illustrates that if people are, from the start, in relative proximity to one another and make use of a shared facility, they are more likely to meet (Relph 1976:33; Deasy 1974:48).
The social logic of Tuan’s (1977) ‘tree’ rests on the significance of encounters – being acknowledged and recognised – for building a sense of community. If a place allows people to pause, gather and experience spontaneous social encounters, it provides the necessary prelude to friendship. When people make contact, recognition occurs; from recognition, liking can arise; and Hence, Tuan’s example expresses how, by providing the necessary conditions, a sense of community and enriched quality of everyday life within a setting can be encouraged and supported.
4.1 Plug and Play architecture – changing according to the need
Prinsloo (2005: [sp]) describes lifestyle centres to incorporate mixed-use strategies: “vibrant retail destinations where people can live, work and shop”. Facilities intended to stimulate a dynamic civic life have come to be included within an environment designed to “increase the number of visits and while away leisure time” (Prinsloo 2005: [sp]). By greening the shopping mall space, by providing attractive pause areas with street furniture, and by featuring casual walkways and plazas lined with trees; the shopping mall can create a “pleasurable and exciting experience” and thus encourage “leisure time visits and casual browsing” (Prinsloo 2005: [sp]). According to Prinsloo (2005: [sp]), the aim is to create a town square atmosphere, and this signals a “return of the way in which retail originally started at the marketplace of the community”.
It becomes apparent that the prescribed characteristics for the design of convenience shopping malls in Africa and other parts of the world, put forward by Stanlib (2012) and Prinsloo (2010, 2006), is paying little attention to the strengthening of the neighbourhood or fostering a sense of community – albeit that convenience shopping malls are termed either “neighbourhood” or “community”. Indeed, aspects relating to the creation of anthropological place and the prevention of placelessness, like the representation of the local community and setting, do not feature in the main priorities. Instead, what comes to the fore is the prescription of a preconceived, tried-and-tested reductionist model to be copied and pasted onto suitable sites.
However, the increasing saturation of African shopping malls raises the question: if all shopping malls are following the same prescribed models, which shopping malls, made purely for the repeated ritual of (over)consumption, will survive in a competitive shopping ecosystem of the new open-air ‘’market’’ concept? A ‘’new’’ concept catering for more than just consumption, but rather good quality public space, ease of movement, whilst providing meeting places for relaxation such as coffee shops and restaurants, experience, interaction, and being closer to nature.
Hence, it comes to the forefront that shopping malls and lifestyle centres alike must consistently fulfil consumers’ expectations for meaningful experiences to remain competitive. According to Prinsloo (2004: [sp]), a shopping mall needs to become “a ‘feel good’ place” that “focuses on increasing the shopping experience and the dwelling time in a particular centre”. Lifestyle centres will maintain relevancy in people’s lives and provide the necessary attachment conditions to shopping experiences as public places.
Natural Movement Theory suggests that people are inclined to well-integrated and well-connected spaces because they collect information about space better for further movements in these kinds of spaces (Hillier et al., 1993; Hillier & Iida, 2005; Sailer & Penn, 2010). The effects of spatial attractors and shop types despite morphological structure is expressed and found that in the natural movement of users in shopping malls, the content was more dominant on users’ decisions of spatial use where “the product is the key” (Yiu et al., 2008; Garip & Ünlü 2009). Although syntactic measures such as circularity, connectivity, integration; all have some significant correlations with frequency of people, the attraction factor of displays, shops, and various activities influence the correlations.
Within the city shopping centres, public spaces can be one of the meeting places, where people find common interests and spend their leisure time. Different activities must be accommodated in them, whether they were previously prepared or spontaneously created at some point. Every public space must be flexible and passable. Public spaces such as squares and streets are, on the other hand, open and accessible to everyone.
The rise of dead malls in Africa and other parts of the world has resulted in new shopping mall trends that directly respond to society’s apathy for the typical enclosed shopping mall. These facilities are identified as lacking from the typical enclosed shopping mall, overlooked in emerging shopping mall design trends is the provision of the necessary contexts for organic social interaction: the opportunity to pause, rest, linger and gather.
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