The Mall of Africa has opened its doors – welcoming shoppers to more than 300 stores in an interior environment inspired by the natural beauty of the African continent.
Three-and-a-half years after construction started on the Mall of Africa, the mammoth, super-regional shopping centre has opened its doors on schedule on 28 April 2016. On opening day more than 122 000 people visited the mall while the first Saturday saw more than 100 000 visitors walking through the doors.
Welcoming shoppers through 26 entrances, the R5-billion mall offers 2,4km of shopping with more than 300 shops comprising a retail mix of local and international brands (nine of which have launched in South Africa for the first time), services, speciality shopping, entertainment and restaurants.
While the gross lettable area of the mall makes up 130 000m², the construction area covers 485 000m², the size of 78 rugby fields, making it the largest single-phase shopping centre development in Southern Africa to date.
The Mall of Africa is co-owned by two leading South African property companies. JSE-listed real estate capital growth fund, Attacq Limited, holds the commercial development rights to Waterfall and owns 80% of the Mall of Africa, while Atterbury Property Developments owns 20% and was responsible for the development project, on behalf of Attacq.
A yardstick for retail design
Destined to set South Africa and the broader Africa on the map in terms of retail development, Mall of Africa was planned as an integral component in the wider pedestrianised urban design of Waterfall City, the heart of an easily accessible city where people can work, live and play. The combination of excellent architecture combined with the leasing expertise on the project, all placed in a new urban framework was intended to provide the catalyst for a new CBD.
“The Mall of Africa has been designed and developed by Africans but I believe that it will stand proud with the most outstanding international retail centres globally,” comments Tia Kanakakis from MDS Architecture.
The mall’s architecture draws inspiration from the natural geological beauty of the African continent, which is translated through the use of natural materials such as wood, stone, glass and concrete. Designed by MDS Architecture, each entrance, passage and court was given its own identity.
Representing the whole of Africa, as the name indicates, the mall’s centre court is inspired by the forests of central Africa, with four courts symbolising African regions related to the four cardinal directions as indicated on a compass:
• An oleum court depicting the oil-rich West Africa.
• A great lakes court depicting East Africa.
• A crystal court depicting the mineral wealth of Southern Africa.
• A sand court depicting the North African desert landscape.
In addition, restaurants are grouped together in a large public space called the Town Square, which looks out over a large park along the southern side of the mall. This node provides flow to an open-air space for activities, shows and informal relaxation. The pedestrian-friendly exterior also features Waterfall Park, an outdoor terraced park with viewing terraces over the Gauteng landscape as far as the Johannesburg skyline, recreation area and an interactive musical water fountain.
The mall has a spacious circulation layout with various parts of the mall opening up to the exterior of the building. The wide passages and unique court areas make for easy shopping navigation on the mall’s two levels.
Aiding in creating a luxurious shopping environment, the design incorporates high shopfronts and an abundance of natural light, as well as a dramatic, green, efficient ETFE undulating roof feature in the centre of the mall and various interesting ceiling designs with animated LED lighting.
With a big focus on ease of maintenance, materials for the finishes to roofs and walls in the back of house, as well as the public trading areas, were specifically selected to keep maintenance requirements to a minimum. In addition, MDS Architecture pushed for more green initiatives than originally envisaged for the project.
“No architect can practice today without being mindful of sustainable design and technologies,” she states. “At the time the concept for the mall was set out the Green Star SA retail centre rating tool had not been fully established but we presented a strong argument to follow best design principles in this regard. This was supported by the client and being mindful of sustainable technologies has been a big focus on the project since its inception.”
Kanakakis explains that as the design developed and green design aspects were added, they were surprised at how much could be done to make the centre efficient and self-sufficient and how sustainable design could be implemented without over the top expense or extraordinary work.
According to Cobus van Heerden of Atterbury Property Developments, green strategies were integrated in the Mall of Africa’s design, construction and operational practices. “As a developer, it is crucial to ensure the assets we create are environmentally responsible and as energy efficient as possible,” he comments.
As part of the unique design to minimise the use of artificial light, the main lengths of the mall have expansive double glazed roof lights that makes the interior bright enough not to run the lights in the mall on sunny days. Extensive solar studies have been undertaken to ensure that the comfort levels are maintained in the mall.
Apart from maximising natural light through the roof and mall design, a massive photovoltaic installation on the roof will provide about 4,8MVA of sustainable power for the centre.
The mall will also make use of a greywater harvesting system for flushing all public toilets situated in 9 blocks across the centre, for the irrigation of the landscaping of the entire development as well as spare capacity to harvest water for the irrigation of the large park next to the mall. Substantial water-storage tanks are situated in the parkade basements with a capacity of 540 000m³.
A rolling roof
To create -the undulating roof light over the centre of the mall, an ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) roof of 4 400m² was installed, consisting of pillows which are kept inflated by means of small pumps. ETFE has very low levels of embodied energy and excellent environmental characteristics.
The remaining 80 000m² curved, low-profile roof was constructed out of approximately 600 tons of 0.58 Z200 Chromadek® White Lion material supplied by ArcelorMittal South Africa, profiled into Craft Lock concealed fix. This profile is highly resistant to negative wind loads suited the application perfectly.
Taming the temperature
Taking into account the roof light design, the high shopfronts and the number of tenants, some of which have multilevel stores, and their individual specifications, Graeme Page Consulting Engineers (GPCE) and Wingrove Consulting Engineers (WinCE) designed an intricate HVAC system for the mall to ensure a comfortable interior temperature for shoppers wherever they are in the mall.
Backed by 35 years’ experience, GPCE’s system concept had been tried and tested in many other retail environments, and was applied to the Mall of Africa design.
According to Graeme Page, such a system has to be developed in close conjunction with the professional team and all the tenants, taking into account the specification of each store and the demands of the client to provide a design solution that strikes the right balance between the capital expenditure, operating costs and that will last as long as the centre itself.
From a structural point of view
According to Nicol Labuschagne, Aurecon’s project director for the Mall of Africa development, while the mall is quite unique from an architectural and functional perspective, the structural design is not too dissimilar to other retail malls. However, the sheer magnitude of the project and the limited construction period in which it had to be completed, posed an interesting challenge.
“We had to stay ahead of the contractor with our design and construction documentation as there were various teams on site pouring concrete slabs at a rate of up to 40 000m² per month,” Labuschagne states.
As the civil and structural works inevitably have to happen at the start of construction, Aurecon made use of six of their other offices, to keep up with the designs through the high peaks of construction.
“We had 100% commitment from the full professional team and excellent cooperation from the WBHO/Group 5 joint venture to accommodate late changes due to changing tenant requirements,” he says.
The structure of the mall was modelled in 3D, using Revit software and this made it possible for us to share our 3D model between our various design teams explains Labuschagne. The final review and checking however were done at one location from where the issuing of documentation was managed.
“The subsoil drainage below the 16ha mall footprint and the foundations of the building was quite interesting from a design perspective and challenging to keep within our budget constraints,” adds Labuschagne.
Due to the underlying geological profile of the site, which comprises mainly a varying profile of soft to very hard rock granites, no single founding solution could be used, but instead had to be tailored for each column or wall, making use of either piling, conventional spread footings or a combination thereof.
The Mall of Africa is situated in Waterfall City, adjacent to the Allandale Road exit off the N1 highway. Access is gained from both sides of the highway via the first free-flow interchange of its size in Africa. The mall has about 6 500 parking bays and also offers valet parking, direct Gautrain bus access, drop-off facilities for buses, and dedicated Uber pick-up and drop-off points.
Full thanks and acknowledgment are given to Attacq, Atterbury Property Developments, MDS Architecture, Aurecon, Graeme Page Consulting Engineers and ArcelorMittal South Africa for the information given to write this article.
The professional team
Owners: Attacq (80%)
Atterbury Property Developments (20%)
Developer: Atterbury Property Developments
Architects: MDS Architecture
Structural engineer: Aurecon
Electrical engineer: Rawlins Wales and Partners
HVAC engineers: Graeme Page Consulting Engineers and Wingrove Consulting Engineers
Quantity surveyors: Norval Wentzel Steinberg
Project manager: GHC Africa
WBHO/Group Five JV
• 130 000m² floor area.
• 2 retail levels.
• 2,4km of shopping.
• Over 6km of shopfronts.
• 50 lifts, hoists and tenant lifts.
• 40 escalators.
• 9 restrooms.
• ±6 500 parking bays.
• ±4 500 employees.
• 10 000 000 bricks laid.
• 36 months of construction.
• 570 piles in the ground.
• 9 200 columns built.
• 530km of tension cable laid.
• 205 000m³ of concrete.
• 18 500 tons of steel.
With a vast array of local and international brands, the Mall of Africa showcases elegant yet striking shopfronts and store designs.