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City&Country: Unusual malls around the world

Malls have moved beyond being mere places to shop, and going to the mall has become a family recreational pastime. Malls have become a feast for the senses. They wow us with their unique architecture such as the Kanyon in Turkey, designed by The Jerde Partnership, which has undulating forms emulating an actual canyon, and thrill us with the astounding array of facilities they offer.

The West Edmonton Mall, Canada,  holds nine theme parks and the world’s largest indoor amusement park, the largest indoor triple-loop roller coaster, the largest indoor wave pool and biggest parking lot.

Some malls are unusual in more ways than one. The Melbourne GPO in Australia, for instance, is a heritage building — a former post office to be exact. The post office building nearly burned down in a fire but has since been reopened as a mall, while the Dubai Mall, with its Gold Souk, enchants us with its opulence and glamour.

While the jury is still out on the outlook for the global retail market, an economic recovery in many parts of the world may herald improved consumer sentiment and higher spending. This is certainly the case in Malaysia, where shopping is considered a national pastime.

One does not need to be a shopaholic to enjoy the appeal, both aesthetic and experiential, from the selection of interesting malls we have highlighted below.

Khan Shatyr, Kazakhstan
Located in the centre of the Kazakh capital Astana, this transparent space-age structure is not just the city’s tallest structure, but also the world’s tallest tent at a height of 150m.

Its significance goes beyond its sheer size, however. It is one of five major landmarks built on an imaginary axis through the capital, including the Kazak Eli (Kazakh People’s) monument, Palace of Peace and Reconciliation, the Ak Orda presidential mansion and the Baiterek tower.

Launched in July in conjunction with president Nursultan Nazarbayev’s 70th birthday and the 12th anniversary of Astana’s founding, this covered public space is the more organic-looking counterpart of the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation. Both landmarks are the handiwork of celebrated architecture firm Foster + Partners.

Apart from its height, its other most striking feature is its tensile cover which comprises three layers of ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) — a wondrous plastic that is strong and durable, has great insulation qualities, and is easy to maintain.

Not only does the ETFE give the building its unique appearance and take advantage of natural lighting, it also offers protection against the harsh climate of the Central Asian country, where temperatures climb up to 35?C in summer and plunge to -35?C in winter.

The terraced interior — with 100,000 sq m of floor space — is dotted with retail outlets, cafés, restaurants, cinemas and exhibition and event spaces, with a water park at the highest level.
Built at a cost of US$400 million (RM1.3 billion), the clear skin allows stunning views of the city and the steppes during the daytime while at night, it is illuminated by multi-coloured lights.

West Edmonton Mall, Canada
This mall takes “bigger is better” to new heights. West Edmonton Mall is actually more of an integrated entertainment hub — it boasts nine theme parks, two hotels and more than 100 food and beverag
e outlets.

The largest retail centre in North America and the fifth largest in the world, it spans a whopping 5.3 million sq ft after a four-phase expansion from 1983 to the 1990s, making it the size of 48 city blocks, according to the mall’s website.

Its first hospitality component, the West Edmonton Inn, opened in 1999. Now, it averages 28.4 million visitors a year.

With over 800 shops and services, the mall estimates that it would take 72 hours just to visit each one for five minutes.

Fun-seeking patrons looking for adventure can knock themselves out at any of the nine theme parks — Galaxyland, World Waterpark, Ed’s Rec Room, Marine Life, Ice Palace, Putt ‘n’ Glow, Professor Wem’s Adventure Golf, Deep Sea Derby and the Santa Maria, an exact replica of Christopher Columbus’ ship.

In fact, some of its features have earned West Edmonton Mall accolades such as world’s largest indoor amusement park, largest indoor triple-loop roller coaster, largest indoor wave pool and biggest parking lot.

Melbourne GPO, Australia
This high-end boutique destination is located across Bourke Street Mall and Elizabeth Street, in the city’s central business district.

Home to more than 47 stores, it features a mix of Australian brands such as Willow, Sass & Bide, Lisa Ho, Zimmerman and Akira as well as international brands such as Acne Studio, Karen Miller England, Ben Sherman and Belinda.

Built in 1859, the three-storey heritage building was formerly a post office, hence its initials (GPO stands for general post office).

It features the neo-renaissance style that was all the rage in Australia during the 19th century, and one of its architects, AE Johnson, would eventually go on to work on the Supreme Court.

Plans to transform the post office into a retail complex started in 1993, piquing the interest of locals who regularly frequented the place for their postage and stationery needs.

Melbourne’s beloved landmark was nearly lost in a fire in 2001, before it was finally re-opened in 2004 as a mall.

Today, it is the site of many sartorial events, the latest being Melbourne Fashion Week 2010.

Vivocity, Singapore
Down south lies VivoCity, Singapore’s largest retail centre. Offering over a million sq ft of lettable floor area, it comprises over 450 outlets offering a myriad of entertainment, retail and dining experiences.

The mall was developed by Mapletree Investments Pte Ltd at a cost of S$417 million (RM1 billion) and was originally billed as the HarbourFront Mall before it was renamed to better reflect the developer’s wish for a vibrant activity hub.

It is situated in the HarbourFront precint, a 24-acre area with upscale residences, as well as offices and retail outlets. The area also boasts cruise facilities at the HarbourFront Centre.

Acclaimed Japanese architect Toyo Ito, known for his work on the Sendai Mediatheque in Japan, drew inspiration from the image of waves in the sea due to its location by the harbour. It is his first major project outside his home country.

The mall also boasts a 1,000-seat amphitheatre, a 15-screen cinema, a pool four times the size of an Olympic-sized swimming pool and a 300m wide promenade that offers breathtaking views of Singapore Harbour and Sentosa Bay.

Fashion Show, Las Vegas, the US
As its name suggests, the mall is well-known for its line-up of American and international clothing brands, including Dolce & Gabbana, Alexander McQueen and Zac Posen.

It boasts  a 24.4m retractable runway supported by cutting-edge audiovisual technology for its 20 fashion shows held from Friday to Sunday.

The mall’s signature architectural feature is The Cloud, a tilted 146m by 49m disc that stands at 39m at its highest point, making it stand out among the other buildings along the Las Vegas Strip.
Under The Cloud is The Plaza, a space with fibre optics, copper cables, video output as well as audio input and output equipment for various events.

Key among its multimedia equipment is the Media Curve which comprises four LED screens that measure 7.3m in height and 13m in length.

Fashion Show’s Great Hall is large enough to accommodate five Boeing 737s, and has an 8.5m by 8.5m retractable glass wall and three LED screens.

Following its expansion in 2004, the mall’s gross floor area now stands at 1.8 million sq ft, more than double the original 869,000 sq ft.

Dubai Mall, Dubai
Incredibly opulent, this 12.1 million sq ft mall boasts 1,200 retail outlets including 220 in its Gold Souk, the largest indoor souk in the world, as well as over 160 dining establishments.

Its Dubai Aquarium & Discovery Centre has been certified by Guinness World Records as having the planet’s largest acrylic viewing panel while its Dubai Ice Rink is equally grandiose at Olympic-sized proportions.

The mall also has Dubai’s largest cinema, containing 22 screens.

Its Fashion Avenue spans 440,000 sq ft and is lined with purveyors of high fashion such as Cole Haan, Saccor Brothers, Manolo Blahnik, Karen Millen, Just Cavalli, Diesel, Tru Trussardi, CK, Coach and Burberry as well as jewellers such as Rivoli, Tiffany, Carl F Boucherer and Richard Mille.

Children can amuse themselves silly in Kidzania, touted as the Middle East’s first educational fun facility, while consummate thrill-seekers can go to the indoor theme park SEGA Republic.

Dubai Mall is part of the US$20 billion Downtown Burj Dubai project, which is famed for the superlative 828 metre-Burj Khalifa. Patrons of the retail centre can access the observation deck of the tower from the mall’s lower ground floor.

Westside Bern-Brünnen, Switzerland
A winning design by visionary architect Daniel Libeskind, Westside Bern-Brünnen is an iconic shopping centre in the heart of Swiss capital Bern.

The shopping mall anchors a comprehensive expansion of the Westside quarter which was mooted in the 1960s but was only kick-started in earnest in 1999.

The quarter comprises residences for the aged, the city square, a park and a gateway to Bern, the latter designed as a layered wooden façade made from the native locust trees.

Westside was also designed with environmental concerns in mind, with heat-recovery features, insulation and natural lighting emphasised.

It also features the Bernaqua Adventure Pool & Spa with fitness park, a round stainless steel pool as well as a sauna, Roman-Irish bath, spa and other pools.

Libeskind brings his sharp and angular aesthetic to his first project in Switzerland and his maiden venture into retail centres, evident in the clever effect of the slanted stripes against the wooden façade.

In the daytime, the tinted stripes contrast against the wood while at night, they attain a luminous quality.

Kanyon, Istanbul, Turkey
Sporting undulations like an actual canyon, Kanyon is designed by The Jerde Partnership, a leading “experiential” architectural firm, in collaboration with Turkey’s Tabanl?o?lu Architects.

A statement by the mall, describes The Jerde Partnership’s approach thus: “Their primary concern is on how people interact with space, how this energy animates the environment, and how places can have a more intimate meaning in people’s lives beyond the  physical space itself. It is a unique blend of design, understanding and directing human behaviour, architecture, and urban planning.”
Developed jointly by Eczac?ba?? Group and ??GYO, the development was envisioned as a hub of human activity where work, shopping and leisure meet.

The result was 179 apartments, a 26-storey office block and  37,500 sq m of retail area.

Largely outdoors, Kanyon has 160 stores over four distinctly-branded levels — featuring fashion, luxury, electronics and entertainment.

The mall also has a gourmet supermarket, street bazaar, cinemas, restaurants, health club, and outdoor performance areas.

Green Circle Shopping Centre, Missouri, the US
This mall is the first in the US to be awarded the LEED Platinum certification by the US Green Building Council (USGBC), which was the aim of its owners, the O’Reillys of Springfield, Missouri.
The 23,000 sq ft mall was built at a cost of US$3 million on a site chosen to minimise the felling of trees and retain as much greenery as possible.

Other features include geothermal heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC), high-efficiency windows, recycled products, occupancy lighting controls, and daylight harvesting.

Its storm water management techniques include using porous concrete pavement, below-ground water retention, a vegetative green roof, a rainwater cistern, depressed islands, local flora, bioswales, shared parking lots, tree preservation and water-quality filter strips.

Green Circle was designed by by Hufft Projects, LLC, while water resources engineering, civil/site design, and land surveying were provided by Olsson Associates.  

Atrio, Austria
Billing itself as the embodiment of the cross-cultural spirit — it draws inspiration from the joint Olympic bid from Austria, Italy and Slovenia. The mall is Austria’s first the
med shopping complex.
At 38,700 sq m, the mall has just over 80 shops. It has great ambitions to position itself as a new urban square in Villach, one of the largest cities in southern Austria.

In May 2009, Atrio bagged the International Best-of-the-Best-Award for Sustainability by The International Council of Shopping Centers Inc (ICSC).

The council praised the design by ATP Architects and Engineers, calling it a “new meeting point and marketplace for the region”.

Atrio is part of a network of over 20 malls across Austria and Slovenia managed by Spar European Shopping Centers.


This article appeared in City & Country, the property pullout of The Edge Malaysia, Issue 838, Dec 27, 2010-Jan 2, 2011

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