Green building technology, easy access ensures hassle-free visit for all
PORT Elizabeth’s newest and largest-ever entertainment and retail centre will span the size of 22 rugby fields, and architects have made sure that when Baywest Mall opens on May 21 it will be one of the country’s most enjoyable shopping centres.
Quick access crisscross 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 all add to 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,” Henstra said.
“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 user-friendly, so we wanted to create a mall which was an absolute pleasure to navigate,” said Henstra.
The uncomplicated design of the mall, says Henstra, achieves two objectives: it ensured the mall detracted from its natural surrounds as little as possible, and kept shoppers’ attention on the reason they were 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. There is also a crisscross, so you can go from the one side of the mall to the other very easily.”
Green building principles were also engaged wherever possible in the design.
Something relatively new to large malls in South Africa is prismatic diffusers – small openings in the roof which transmit large amounts of natural light into the centre without transferring the heat gain, so the air-conditioning system is not strained.
Another energy-saving technology, LED lighting, is also used throughout.
“This is all paired with an incredibly intelligent air-conditioning system which focuses on keeping the shops cool, with the spillover 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.”
-Weekend Post Reporter