The new three-level Ballito Junction opened in March 2017. It has extended an existing 12 000m2 shopping centre, growing it by almost eight times its original size while offering simple, uncluttered and calming aesthetics.
Ballito Junction is now a regional shopping centre which offers 80 000m2 GLA. It was designed by MDS Architecture for a consortium of Menlyn Maine Investment Holdings and Flanagan & Gerard Property Development & Investment.
Sean Pearce, the partner at MDS Architecture who led the project, says that the three-level centre posed a number of design challenges, particularly given that it needed to tie in to an existing shopping centre, Ballito Junction.
“From Ballito Drive, you only see one level but the building is 35m high at the back (the equivalent of around 6 storeys in height). The design pays homage to the ocean and we have also been careful to design in such a way that guests experience a number of inter-connecting spaces to layer their experience,” he explains.
In addition to the planned extension, the owners extended the mall further during the construction phase in response to retailer demand. It now features six anchor retailers and a diverse mix of over 200 shops, restaurants, and services. The anchor tenants are Checkers, Woolworths, Edgars, Pick n Pay (existing), Game and Dis-Chem (existing).
Its location off the major N2 highway gives Ballito Junction ease of access from its immediate vicinity as well as to its north and south, and even inland. It has dedicated access around the traffic circles of Leonora Drive, off both Ballito Drive and Simbithi Drive, as well as from Ballito Drive itself.
Bringing two structures together
Pearce says that bringing the two buildings together posed quite a design challenge. “This was solved by giving the existing centre a facelift and viewing it as a themed area that attaches itself to the new building,” he says.
Ballito Junction’s existing and well-loved piazza area with Mediterranean flair was retained and a second piazza was added to the new building. Five levels of parking lead straight into the three malls and the centre features a truck tunnel right at the bottom of the building so that no deliveries take place in a public interface but instead through a series of lifts and staircases concealed from the general public.
The old and new are brought together through the top level mall, creating a physical pedestrian link. Parking levels between the two buildings are connected at the upper and middle level malls, which assists with the accessibility and efficiency of the design.
One of Ballito’s most appealing features is its outdoor lifestyle on account of its great climate and beachfront. Inspired by the ocean and seaside living, the design of the mall gives a nod to the area and lifestyle.
Entrances at Ballito Junction are prominent and modern, featuring massive off-shutter concrete walls that are panelled to look like weathered timber and lead visitors to one of the three entrances. Illuminated walkways are lined with screens of bouganvilleas. Glass-roofed car drop-off areas provide cover from the elements while wave roofs appear to float above the white building. Ocean blue glass has been used on the stairwells.
Various aesthetic elements combine to evoke memories of a seaside holiday, including a colour palette which includes beach sand and ocean colours. Sunny, windswept days are also conjured through references to water, timber boardwalks and decking.
Each of the building’s three levels represents an aspect of the ocean. The upper mall level is an all-white theme depicting the rolling white waves of the ocean. Glass balustrades are used throughout the mall to create clean lines and this level offers entertainment, youth retail and niche fashion stores.
The middle level is the prime fashion level and is inspired by water. Blue feature lighting ripples across the ceilings while the floors are covered in timber-lookalike and windswept sand porcelain tiles.
The lower level’s theme is the ‘bottom of the sea’ and it is here that the Urban Eatery is located. The food court area is a highlight of Ballito Junction. It is a contemporary market space where patrons can enjoy fresh produce and takeaways, all found in one open-plan space. The aesthetic resembles an industrial building that has been retrofitted where the exposed steel and concrete structures are used as decorative elements. There are no shopfronts in this area, only the kitchens are enclosed and the Urban Eatery features 6.5m high ceilings and a massive feature window which looks out to the north over the undeveloped green parklands of Simbithi Eco-Estate.
“Urban Eatery features subdued lighting and is a step in a new direction from the garish, bright and loud food court areas of the past,” says Pearce. Owing to the massive window, the Eatery is dark when it is dark outside, which creates an intimate atmosphere. Specialist lighting sees the mood change during the day, creating both sunrise and moonlight effects during appropriate times of the day.
There are various abstract references to water and sand throughout Ballito Junction. Timber boardwalks, bubble mobiles, jellyfish mobiles and undulating waves in the ceilings all come together for a relaxing and contemporary shopping experience.
Skylights over the two main feature courts and clerestorey windows provide abundant natural light which washes down to all the levels below. Large off-shutter concrete walls cast to look like timber clad walls help to delineate the main entrances. Internally, these concrete walls are expposed with the shopfronts in these areas popping out like bay windows. Scenic windows are also included in the double level major tenant stores to maximise views out over the immediate valley and the sea.
Screening services from residential viewpoints
Pearce reiterates that while the building doesn’t seem imposing from Ballito Drive, from the residential side of Ballito Junction, it is a 6-storey structure. “The building has two very distinct sides to it. Whereas the one side features prominent entrances, we worked to ensure that the back blends and recedes into the backdrop as much as possible. This side of the building is painted dark with a combination of aluminium panels covering the services and vertical planting to ensure that in a few short years, the building will blend softly into its immediate context.”
Ballito Junction also offers a state-of-the-art Nu Metro cinema complex, including a Scene Xtreme cinema with a wall-to-wall, floor to ceiling screen and the latest in cinema audio technology. There are two Scene VIP cinemas, complete with a lounge/dining area where one can order hot/cold drinks and freshly prepared meals served in the lounge or to one’s seat plus five regular 2D and 3D cinemas.
22 Jump Street is a huge trampoline park which offers family entertainment including climbing-walls, dodgeball and a viewing area.
“MDS Architecture is known for their ability to maintain the tricky balance between design and commercial demands and they have managed to do so brilliantly on this project,” says Pat Flanagan of Flanagan & Gerard Property Development & Investment.
We put some additional questions to Sean Pearce, partner: MDS Architecture.
What is it about designing shopping centres that excites MDS?
I love producing a creative, personal, cost effective and efficient shopping experience!
What challenges are specific to designing shopping centres that you do not encounter on other projects?
There are constant changes to leasing plans and change management is critical to a successful project.
What do you believe sets this mall apart from other shopping centres in the surrounding areas?
Ballito Junction is a triple level mall which was added onto an existing single level shopping centre.
From an architectural perspective, what feature of each of the projects are you most proud of?
The Urban Eatery food court concept and wave-like feature roof.
Were any sustainable initiatives implemented in the projects?
Domestic water supply storage, double glazing to certain feature areas.
LOCATION: Ballito, South Africa
OWNERS & DEVELOPMENT MANAGERS: Flanagan & Gerard Property Development & Investment, Menlyn Maine Investment Holdings
ARCHITECTS: MDS Architecture, Boogertman & Partners Durban
QUANTITY SURVEYOR: Norval Wentzel Steinberg
STRUCTURAL & CIVIL ENGINEER: L&S Consulting
ELECTRICAL ENGINEER: RWP
MECHANICAL ENGINEER: QMech
TRAFFIC ENGINEER: Royal Haskoning
WET SERVICES: Sutherland Engineers
FIRE CONSULTANT: SFT
TIME MANAGER: Orion Project Managers
LEASING: Flanagan & Gerard Group
MAIN CONTRACTOR: WBHO
PHOTOGRAPHS: Supplied/Christopher Allan