Will Alsop’s first (and last) African project
Envisioned as more than just another shopping centre, The Beacon open-air mall is intended to also be a tourist attraction – a must-see for visitors to Nairobi, Kenya.
aLL Design has won planning permission for this new retail concept, which was developed under the direction of the late Professor Will Alsop, who passed away on 12 May 2018. The Beacon will be the firm’s first project in Kenya and Alsop’s only project in Africa. The mall, together with an Grade A office project, will be developed by Kiloran LLP.
The new open-air shopping mall features 24 300m² of retail, food and beverage along with a 4 200m², seven-storey office tower overlooking the mall’s roof garden and bar. Many details were commissioned by local craftspeople and artisans, as well as those using the latest manufactured materials and technology.
A sweet factory theme
The Beacon will be characterised by a “sweet factory” theme with the vivid colours and striking patterns of the facade hinting at the amusements and leisure facilities inside.
A light monorail with “jellybean”-style carriages is planned, as well as a helter-skelter piano staircase and merry-go-round which will enliven the space and encourage community interaction and shared experience. Playful twists on form and function will fulfil Alsop’s desire that architecture should always be fun.
The main facade to the Uhuru Highway will be clad in monochromatic porcelain panels broken by a bright red leisure box. Internally, mallscape walkways will be sheltered from seasonal rain and sun by colourful solar fabric canopies. A thatched rooftop restaurant and solid-surface clad bar sit atop a biodiverse brown roof.
Places for people
It is intended that the mall will become a destination in its own right, situated on a prime retail pitch between the major employment zones of the Central Business District, the Industrial Area and Upper Hill financial district. It is designed to broaden the localised leisure options and provide facilities that encourage longer dwell time by visiting families with children, teenagers and young people.
This commitment to “create places people like” and a common approach to promote shopping experience brought Kiloran and Will Alsop, with his team at aLL Design, together on this flagship development for East Africa.
Marcos Rosello, co-founder of aLL Design, comments: “We were intrigued by Kiloran’s ideas for this mall in Nairobi and were pleased to be able to create an open-air mall with a focus on sustainability, fun and family, which we believe to be key drivers on future international mall design.”
The challenge to deliver an Alsop/aLL Design concept in East Africa has been addressed by Kiloran through direct engagement with first-class specialist engineers, fabricators, suppliers and subcontractors.
Kiloran is focused on value-driven sustainability at conceptual level and through the encouragement of local fabrication and procurement. The concepts of both fun and sustainability are not applied merely as devices, but are designed into the grain of development.
The completion and grand opening of The Beacon are planned for the spring of 2020, and the building will be an architectural legacy for Nairobi that will serve to promote tourism.
Full thanks and acknowledgement are given to aLL Design for the information given to write this article.
Location: Uhuru Highway, Nairobi, Kenya
Type: Mixed-use retail, office and leisure
Architect: aLL Design
Local architect: DMJ
Size: 28 500m²
Completion: Due spring 2020
Caption main image: The Beacon open-air mall is designed with a “sweet factory” theme.
Courtesy of aLL Design
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