Shopping malls, on the whole, tend not to be paragons of design quality, and have propagated worldwide with little thought, period, let alone thought for the local culture, climate, or conditions. Which means that often they don’t serve the needs of either the shoppers, the community, or even the shopkeepers. They can increase cost to the store owners and decrease sales, rather than provide benefits to all who need to use it.
This project in Ethiopia does.
The above diagram, well, diagrams it all. In elegant ways this new “mall” incorporates sustainable initiatives, inviting spaces, and local charm to create a shopping mall born of a specific place. It’s much more than the traditional strip ‘o shops with a fancy pediment.
There’s a whole bunch I like about this building, starting right from the get go with the expressive outer shell. It’s concrete and it’s expressively pierced with a pattern adapted from the traditional local fabrics. This means all at once it diffuses and controls the harsh local sun, it allows for passive natural ventilation, and it’s a thermal mass to help control the heat even further. And as nice as it is on the outside, inside it is absolutely gorgeous, especially the amazing surprise that is the coloured bits of glass that sparkle like jewels. Simple, clever, and good looking.
The building is also a shortcut between two adjacent busy streets, with a diagonal path carved along the ground floor that, in turn, becomes a diagonal atrium that expands upward and opens to the sky. This acts as a chimney, letting hot air rise and the natural ventilation keep the building cool. It’s also an internal street, letting the floors communicate with each other rather than be isolated pancakes. The roof is also no isolated pastry*, it’s a large umbrella-filled patio. That also happens to collect rainwater that is then stored to use for restrooms and irrigation. Oh, and the umbrellas also serve double duty as photovoltaic panels. Air, water, light, electricity… all thought of and integrated into this lovely box.
This is great stuff. From the dramatic arched entryways to the spiraling road and shops that lead to the terraced roof, it elevates the experience of shopping while honouring its surroundings and thinking deeply about sustainability. Lovely work.
* Sorry for the tortured metaphor…