Palestine's largest shopping destination Centro Mall is rooted to the land
Dubai's Lacasa look to the olive tree for inspiration while designing the large-scale retail building
Dubai-based architecture and engineering firm, Lacasa has unveiled its design for Centro Mall, a new large-scale shopping mall in Ramallah, Palestine. The mall has been inspired by the country’s economic and symbolic asset: the olive tree.The olive tree, according to the architects, plays a large role in the lives of Palestinians. Besides its economic significance, the trees are synonymous with Palestinians’ attachment to their land and culture. This symbolism was used within the exterior façade – but more so, within the interiors of the building.
“We wanted to present this concept with a contemporary twist by utilising glazing and media screens within the elevations [of the building],” says Patrick Bean, design director at Lacasa. Jerusalem stone, being the dominant exterior material of surrounding buildings, was also used in the exterior cladding of the building, allowing the structure to blend within its context. However, due to its positioning – the building is located close to a residential area consisting of low-rise buildings and homes – as well as its scale and shape, the building positions itself as a prominent landmark.“We wanted [the building] to blend within the overall colour palette of the area, while also being a prominent landmark due to the contemporary architectural style, its size, and the use of media screens to attract attention,” Bean explains.
“The project is constantly playing a game with the contradiction of classical and contemporary while bringing the outside in and harnessing it to offer a design that appeals to a sense of space.“With this in mind, we developed the context of the mall to offer a sense of place that could be identified – but did not appear overtly literal. The finishes throughout are kept taste-ful in their simplicity, but speak volumes of the materials that are available within the region.”Within the main atrium of the retail development, the structural columns assume a tree-like structure, ornately supporting an illusionary canopy.
The use of pierced oak panels produces a dappled light effect reminiscent of the “airiness and nature of an olive grove” – in addition to offer-ing acoustic balance. Special treatment porcelain tiles – suitable for high-traffic areas – are used in distinctive sizes to enhance the effect of sunlight passing through a tree canopy, while offering direc-tion to the visitors. Within the food court, where the use of oak fins produce yet another contemporary re-interpretation of a tree canopy, further nods to the Middle East are established. These include the use of carpets and embroidered wall hangings which support the hand-blown glass lighting.
The floor tiles draw influence from Moorish patterns, contrasting with the wood flooring set under a Turkish blue ceiling. Indoor and outdoor spaces were integrated mainly through the food and beverage units, where visitors can choose their seating based on weather conditions.“Our space-planning process took this insight into account by offering F&B spaces with both indoor and outdoor seating to accommodate the different seasons,” says Bean. “During the summer, the glazed partitions that separate the two spaces can be opened, allowing for the indoor seating area exposure to the surrounding views and fresh air.”The total built-up area of the retail development amounts to 50,000sq-m, consisting of six levels of retail space and three levels of parking. Centro Mall will feature 135 retail units, five anchor stores, a hypermarket, 21 F&B spots, a food court, a kid’s play area, a ballroom, an ice rink, and an indoor skydiving chamber.
Additionally, a dedicated area has been assigned to include kiosks for Palestinian entrepreneurs to launch their businesses and display their products or services. Developed by Lacasa Holdings, in conjunction with the architecture practice and its engineer-turned-architect Emad Jaber, the project aims to encourage innovation and economic development in the country. “I have always been focused on enhancing the quality of life and economic well-being of my home country,” says Jaber. “I see the mall as a major step forward for Palestine’s economy; one that will go beyond providing a shopping destination. It will be a prominent social and entertainment hub for Palestinians, while also encouraging local innovation and entrepreneurship.” Bean adds: “By undertaking a number of projects in the city, we were able to create jobs through the construction and operations.” The construction of the development is currently under way, with over 40% of the project completed to date. Centro 4 Mall is set to open its doors in the first quarter of 2019.