Not only will the Eastern Cape’s newest and largest ever entertainment and retail centre span the size of 22 rugby fields, but architects have made sure that when Baywest Mall opens on May 21st it will be one of the country’s most enjoyable and futuristic shopping centres.
Quick access criss-cross corridors linking shoppers to both sides of the oval-shaped mall, one of the country’s largest screens in the food court at 24m², and restaurants with table heights to accommodate shoppers in wheelchairs are all part and parcel of what architects say will be a shopping experience redefined.
An abundance of natural light and ground-breaking green building techniques are also part and parcel of the centre’s impressive features.
Chairman of the firm which designed the mall, dhk architects’ Derick Henstra, explained the psychology behind building a mall which would excite and entertain, rather than confuse and disorientate. The firm’s associate director Joe Struwig was lead design architect on the Baywest Mall project.
“We have a fresher, newer approach to retail, and Baywest Mall is one of those exercises,” said Henstra. “It’s a futuristic mall. We wanted it to be a timeless piece of architecture.
“We had to make Baywest visually appealing. For malls around the world, one of the most important aspects is the element of flow. They are often not very legible or user-friendly, so we wanted to create a mall which was an absolute pleasure to navigate,” said Henstra.
The uncomplicated design of the mall, said Henstra, achieves two objectives: it ensures the mall detracts from its natural surrounds as little as possible, and keeps shoppers’ attention on the reason they are there in the first place – the stores.
“The mall has a soft curve, so you can virtually see around the corner. It is also a tight race track, so it doesn’t feel like you are walking for kilometres and kilometres. There is also a crisscross, so you can cross over from the one side of the mall to the other very easily.”
Green building principles were also engaged wherever possible in the design, he said. Something relatively new to large malls in SA is prismatic diffusers – small openings in the roof which transmit large amounts of natural light into the centre without transferring the heat gain, meaning the air conditioning system is not strained.
Another energy-saving technology, LED lighting, is also used throughout the mall.
“This is all paired with an incredibly intelligent air conditioning system which focuses on keeping the shops cool, with the spill-over cool air used to cool and ventilate the mall,” said Henstra. “It’s a clever way of being energy efficient.”
Being aware of shoppers with special needs was also an important part of the design brief, and for this reason Baywest Mall is designed with wheelchair access in mind.
“There are lots of easy ramps for wheelchairs, and the heights of tables in restaurants and the food court are designed to accommodate shoppers in wheelchairs. It’s part of making the mall friendly and easy for everyone to access,” said Henstra.
Speaking of the mall’s inclusion of a Fun Factory entertainment zone, Henstra said: “We’re bringing back the enjoyment of retail. Shopping is not just shopping – there is an element of entertainment. That’s what Baywest brings together.”