Monday, 19 January 2015

Shopping Mall & Bank HQ in Shymkent, Kazakhstan . 2014

Project done for Benoy Architects (London) . Built

The Cost Effective "Wow Factor"

Location, Scope & Challenges . Located in the Center of Shymkent, the third biggest city in Kazakhstan, this mixed-use project was integrated in a masterplan previously designed by some Turkish architects, formed by a shopping mall, a bank HQ, an office building and an on grade carpark, which was approved by our client and we had to take it on board as our starting point. Later on along the process our client changed his mind and the initial brief and “imposed” us another masterplan, which ditched the office building but kept all the other components. Our scope (concept & schematic design) was to design these 2 buildings, “refine” the masterplan and our biggest challenge was (once again) the client and his project manager, who gave us initially little “conceptual room to maneuver” and kept changing his mind, interfering in the design process with constant requests and impositions. It was clear by then that they didn’t quite new exactly what they wanted. As the project evolved and with time he eventually relaxed, learned to trust us and things went progressively on the right direction.

Retail Concept . Along with the masterplan the Turkish architects had come up with a retail scheme, which basically didn’t work since it forced a typical retail loop onto a very small footprint shopping mall. In alternative we proposed the mall circulation to be organized around one single atrium space and different size voids, which would change their shape all the way up, creating a dynamic an impressive space. In total the shopping mall would have 5 floors, 3 above the ground floor and 2 below. On the bottom floors it would be located an underground carpark and supermarket, on the ground floor the main anchors and events space and on the floors above, the cinemas, F&B area, foodcourt, landlord office space and a big “wedding type” restaurant.

Brief . Shymkent is an uncharacteristic Soviet looking city and around the site, basically a 7 m deep hole in the ground, the only interesting thing is the existence of a theatre across the main 40m wide adjacent street, which from time to time is closed and used as a public space. Our client wanted a “modern classic building with simple lines” (luckily not a post modern one), the construction to be “economical” (a “low cost” project) and at the same time the building to be  the most impressive ever built in Shymkent in the past 20 years”… In short, he wanted a “Wow Factor” and spend as less money as possible, something obviously difficult to achieve, but not impossible.

Massing Concept . Consequently, this required from us a thoughtful, pragmatic and strategic conceptual approach. Our idea consisted in creating a welcoming, embracing shopping mall entrance by recessing and aligning it with the entrance of the theatre across the street, which defined a public plaza in front of the building, the “Shymkent Plaza”. We did something similar on the back entrance and manipulated the simple massing of the upper floors by sliding 3 of the 4 building corners along a planning grid, in order to increase the visibility of the shopping mall from the main street, resulting on series of impressive cantilevers and a terrace, which overlooks the plaza below. Finally, we pared up Bank HQ floors in order to get higher and closer to the shopping mall floor to floor heights and applied a similar massing concept, enhancing the impressiveness of the overall scheme.

Facade Concept . Concerning the facade concept, our strategy consisted in choosing “cost effective” cladding materials, which would not cost much but could potentially contribute for the desired “Wow Factor”, depending on detail and on the way they would be applied. Along these lines black powercoated perforated corrugated metal panels seemed to us like the ideal option, specially if white LED lights would be placed randomly behind them. At the same time we proposed all the cantilevers soffits to be cladded in golden perforated metal panels, which resulted in a striking contrast between vertical and horizontal surfaces. Internally we would follow similar principles and create a contrasting mainly white “industrial chick” retail environment. In the end, immediately after we presented the Concept Design document, the client just said: “There’s not one single thing in this project that I don’t like, which is very rare…”.

Inauguration on 09.12.2016

> See another interesting video (showing its construction):


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