From shopping malls to community centers

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Our commercial centers and shopping malls are slowly turning into small cities with integrated mixed-use and multi-use developments, offering shopping, dining, working, entertainment, cultural, religious and park-like settings etc. Indeed, the “malling” culture has never been as visible as it is in the Philippines today.

Big malls proliferate in North America and in the Asian region, but are normally located in the suburbs to service far-flung developments. In the Philippines, malls are located at growth centers and have become anchor developments for many of these growing counter magnets. These shopping malls with entertainment and leisure centers have replaced the plazas of the town center where people used to have paseos (leisure walks) and social meetings. The multi-dimensional experience of “malling” in an area primarily designed for public interaction has become a regular activity for most people living in the urban areas in the Philippines. Due to the hot and humid climate, people would opt to stay inside these malls to cool off and spend their day shopping, visiting the themed entertainment areas, dining with their families, and watching the latest movies. The traditional shopping centers have now evolved into a more entertainment-based activity center rather than just purely retail.

Shopping malls have even expanded to include hotels, offices, residential spaces, and bridges to transportation. Given the urban problems of our metropolis, some may say that providing for nature in the metropolis is low on the list of priorities. However, it is precisely because of the urgency of the urban problems of congestion, blight, and slums that the provision for open space, or breathing space within the metropolis becomes critical. Pockets of greenery and clusters of shrubs placed from the periphery of the metropolis towards its center serve as air sheds to disperse pollution, bringing in cleaner and cooler air. Green spaces also provide the city’s children with places for play, and their families respite from the concrete jungle which surrounds them.

According to the 2013 released book International Council of Shopping Centers, the shopping center industry is “one of the largest industries in the world with over 150,000 centers in existence. It has permeated virtually every corner of the globe. What is becoming more important is the role that design plays in determining where consumers want to go. People love busy, active, energetic places in their heroic pursuit of everyday life, and now there is multitude of reasons to visit these new secular cathedrals.”


Multi-use shopping centers
Palafox Associates understood the needs of the consumer and the commercial aspects of the retail and entertainment business and translated it to the physical environment to make shopping and amusement pleasant and affordable to the consumer and at the same time, for the retailer an opportunity to advertise, display, and sell. The direct and simple design approach in the architectural plan and elevation of the firm’s shopping center projects further emphasized that the architectural design should not dominate but rather, serve as a background to emphasize and enhance merchandise and provide the consumer the ability to spend his time in the most direct and convenient manner.

Palafox Associates has redefined the paradigms for the design and construction of commercial structures engaged in retail trade by introducing an out-of-the-usual-box mall design, as seen in numerous shopping mall projects in the country and abroad.

Recently opened malls have included themed entertainment to stimulate a variety of activities housed underone roof. Shoemart, or SM, a leader in the retail and entertainment industry, has been particularly successful catering to mixed-income group. The controlled environment of the mall’s open space has become a source of comfort for the urban dweller in a setting where there are a few public spaces and parks. SM malls have also been setting a trend in themed entertainment; to name a few, indoor theme park, ice-skating, multiplex cinemas, bowling center and even exhibition and trade halls.

The shopping centers Palafox Associates developed for Robinsons Malls offer wide opportunities for regional and community shopping. Robinsons Malls continue to reach places near and far and turn them into viable business districts. The designed malls, like Robinsons Starmills in Pampanga, are given a distinctively festive look through an interplay of colors and shapes imitated from natural elements.

The development’s architectural character is derived from turn-of-the-century Spanish-Iloilo-Philippine architectural design: Long arcaded hallways adorn the façade, which gives people the freedom to walk and promenade. This flood-free development is elevated almost two meters from the street level, allowing a multitude of activities for shoppng, dining, working, and entertaining. The presence of BPO units within the development assures 24/7 security and operations which ensure the constant flow of revenue. The verticality of the structures connects various building elements visually and provides an interesting skyline.

Located in Urdaneta City, Pangasinan, CB Mall is a project with a Mediterranean-inspired theme. Its imagery reflects the rich traditions of the historic city of Urdaneta, such as the watchtower reminiscent of the bell tower used by the Katipuneros as an observation point during the Spanish-American-Filipino War. CB Mall has an approximate lot area of 4,400 square meters and provides ample space for alfresco dining, department store, supermarket, boutiques and a food court.

An appropriate homage to the client’s first and major business venture, Fisher Mall was opened to the public early this year as a mixed-use activity center built over a former bus terminal in Quezon City. Composed of seven levels with two levels intended for the parking area, Fisher Mall features a holistic and sustainable design by encouraging social activities. It also serves as a new mixed-use hub and landmark in the biggest city in Metro Manila.

Another development being developed in Davao City that aims to be a catalyst for urban development and mold the future skyline is Felcris Centrale, a mixed-use large-scale development. It will be the site of a new mall, offices for BPO companies, and an activity area to create a robust network of people, information, and resource to meet the need for speed and innovation. Felcris Centrale’s façade is sculpted to represent the traditional vintas and Philippine Eagle, both of which are unique to Mindanao. This is evident in the upward sloping of the development’s roofs to mimic the Philippine eagle in flight and use of parallel lines on the pedestrian walkways, reminiscent of the vinta’s sail pattern. The façade is carefully designed to respond appropriately to the Davao climate and provide comfort all year round for the occupants.

Shopping centers feed our hunger for human contact and community interaction, and the challenge for shopping centers is to differentiate in-person shopping from any other retail mode and continue to offer a variety of options and experiences worth going out for.

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1 Comment

  1. It is really sad that malls are becoming community centers. In fact, malls are the only option to spend our free time. Malls are really ugly, no one can be considered a landmark from architectural point of view. They are destroying the city, being built in areas that are already congested. Megamall is causing most of the traffic in Edsa. Still, malls are not forced to take care of the surroundings of the mall. It is actually good that for mall-enterpreneurs that nobody takes care of urban planning (building sidewalks, pedestrian streets or parks). This deficit of clean public spaces explains the success of malls in the Philippines.
    Go to Europe: they have beautiful streets, they have cultural events, they have parks. Therefore, no one goes to the few malls there.