The proposal for the architectural competition for the refurbishment and extension of a twenty year old Jumbo (Auchan) hypermarket in Setubal was conditioned by site and planning restrictions. The project involved the transformation of an exhausted standalone hypermarket box with attached retail units into a full blown state-of-art shopping mall. An adjoining plot was acquired for this purpose. This meant that the mall had to be developed almost entirely to one side of the hypermarket.
The design process started with resolving the linkage between the existing parking with those proposed under the new extension. The municipal road dividing the two plots meant that they could not be simply linked horizontally at all levels. A system of interlocking decks and ramps was used to allow visitors to circulate freely between the existing and the new parking areas. The inclined profile of the main adjoining avenue meant that direct access from the outside was possible for all but one of the parking levels.
The design of the mall itself is kept simple. The existing gallery facing the hypermarket is revamped in line with the proposals for the new mall. This in turn has a simple linear configuration allowing clear viewing lines from end to end. Two general mall levels are proposed with a third lower level, with access directly from the street, for a multi screen cinema complex, an entertainment centre and a health club. A substantial food court is placed on the upmost level with a landscaped garden terrace facing the sea in the distance and directly linked to the entertainment floor below via escalators and two panoramic elevators that rise dramatically through a thirty three meters high central atrium. Colours and textures using different materials and the creative use of natural and artificial light give the mall a special vibrancy, a contemporary feel and a special timelessness.
The architecture makes use of the marked difference in levels across the site. A series of landscaped terraces and walkways wrap around the shopping centre, breaking down the building volume and providing a sustainable public realm that is sadly missing in the area. The removal of surface car parking and replacing with large landscaped areas with water features, generous planting and leisure facilities further enhances this public realm and transforms it into a more integral part of the city life and fabric.
A steel and glass entrance totem at one end and the soaring central “dome” at the other add drama and provide great visibility to the new Alegro shopping centre in Setúbal.