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Designing for the Retail Evolution of South Africa

Evolution Architects as Architect

Over the last decade the landscape of shopping centres has changed dramatically. The traditional super-mall models are in decline, giving way to smaller lifestyle developments with a focus on local flavour. This shift has been driven by a change in consumer behaviour, from the one stop shop needs of Generation X, to the desires of the Millennial Generation to work, play and live in one area. Today’s Shoppers desire outdoor spaces and dining options with retail experiences unique to their locale. 

Retail centres are waking up to this trend, utilising architectural agencies that offer a respect for local context that utilise design principles that respond to the surrounding environments; be they natural, urban or residential. As the great Frank Lloyd Wright said: “no house should ever be on a hill or on anything. It should be of the hill. Belonging to it. Hill and house should live together each the happier for the other.”

Responsive design also pertains to the cultural identity of the surrounding community.

Situated in Ballito, KwaZulu-Natal, the Lifestyle Centre has provided an upmarket shopping experience to affluent residents and holidaymakers since 2001. From its inception, Evolution Architects have been the project architects, guiding the ongoing developments over seventeen years. The first major redevelopment occurred in 2007 and went on to be the overall winner for SACSC RDDA expanded shopping centres category.

What began as a strip-style centre has steadily transformed into a popular local lifestyle destination of the future. Great design never happens in isolation. It always begins with taking account of the context and responding to it in a positive way - taking stock of what’s on the site and the surrounding area and tailoring a solution to fit it. Each new development has added picturesque landscapes and restaurants in an open street environment, always taking cues from the beautiful Natal grasslands it resides in.

In 2017, Ballito Lifestyle Centre owner, Bruce Renken, approached Evolution Architects with a vision to create a place of community, comfort and celebration. This exciting exchange of ideas turned into the latest redevelopment that is a model for the evolution of retail spaces today - The Market at Lifestyle.

After much research into global and local retail trends, Evolution Architects delivered a vision that exceeded expectation. They met the needs of today’s consumers with a tangible experience that goes beyond a method to promote sales, becoming a product of its own means. The space was redesigned with the locals’ current lifestyle in mind with a goal to service the growth of the town to come.

The carefully curated balance of materials used in the development generated interest and excitement during the construction. For the exterior, a combination of timber, exposed clay brickwork, off-shutter concrete and corten steel cladding were used. The timber and raw clay brickwork softens the hardened feel of the off-shutter concrete and exposed steel. The sandblasted concrete and brickwork, which has been an admired finish and drawn attention to it, replaced the finish of existing brickwork walls and concrete beams and columns which were previously plastered and painted.

For the interior, different floor finishes were used to draw the shoppers’ eyes to various points of interest. With a variety of colours and textures in ornate cobbled paving and timber decking, the external environment is carried through indoors to complete a holistic experience. This thoughtful creativity showcases Evolution Architects careful attention to detail, leaving nothing to mere function.

The growth of online shopping has long been a worry for brick and mortar retail, offering pricing and convenience that cannot be matched. It is comforting then that the retail spaces of tomorrow will offer experiences that ecommerce will never challenge. Spaces of beauty, social interaction and local flavour that the shoppers of today crave. Evolution Architects are excited about reinventing and redesigning the retail experience, transforming shopping centres into local lifestyle centres for local residents. The shopper journey of the future is an experience of connected community, being inspired by your region while feeling right at home. 

Date: 2017 - current

Location: Ballito, Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa

Architects: Evolution Architects

Quantity Surveyors – Schoombie Hartman Group

Civil/ Structural Engineer – Escongweni BPH Engineers

Mechanical and Fire consultant – Hodari Consulting

Landscape Architect – Land Art Studio

Electrical consultant – Vogt Consulting

Photographer – Dennis Guichard

Project Credits
Product Spec Sheet

Saccharum Resort & Spa
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