Lacasa on the design and construction of Palestine’s largest mall
LACASA's managing partner, Emad Jaber, outlines the company’s design and construction strategy behind its 50,000m2 mall in Palestine
Located in the heart of Palestine, LACASA Holdings’ proposed mall is set to positively impact the country’s economy on multiple levels. Stretching across 50,000m2, it will set a record as Palestine’s largest shopping centre, with more than 200 retail units.
With a mix of local and international brands already expressing their interest in leasing retail units, the mall is on its way to becoming Palestine’s premier shopping, dining, and entertainment destination. As of October 2017, 42% of the mall’s construction has been completed by the holding company’s contracting subsidiary.
Designing a landmark
Designed by LACASA Architects, the mall’s concept was inspired by a major Palestinian motif – the olive tree. Olive trees carry more than just economic significance in the lives of Palestinians. They are not just like any other trees – they are symbolic of the Palestinians’ attachment to their land. The building is constantly playing a game with the contradiction of the classical and the contemporary, whilst bringing the outside in, and harnessing it to offer a design that appeals to a sense of space.
With this in mind, the context of the mall was developed to offer a sense of place and being that could be identified, but did not appear overtly literal. Finishes throughout the mall are kept tasteful in their simplicity, but speak volumes of the materials that are available within the region.
Porcelain tiles – with specialist treatment that makes them suitable for high-traffic areas – are being used in uniquely designed sizes to give the effect of sunlight passing through a tree canopy, whilst also offering direction and guidance to mall users.
The main atrium’s structural columns assume a tree-like structure, ornately supporting an illusionary canopy, with alternating pierced oak panels used to produce a dappled light effect reminiscent of the airiness and nature of an olive grove, whilst also offering acoustic balance that follows European standards. This symbolism is further strengthened in the food court, where oak fins produce another contemporary tree-like canopy with a modern twist.
The restaurants will offer contemporary Palestinian design with an oriental twist, cultural symbols in carpets, and embroidered wall hangings that tastefully support the designs of the hand-blown glass lighting. Floor tiles are influenced from Moorish patterns, and in contrast with the wooden flooring, again bring the sense of the olive tree set under a Turkish blue ceiling, thus introducing the influence of the Middle East.
Following the olive tree style, the ballroom offers a multi-functional space. Its carpet is reminiscent of the Mediterranean sunset, bringing together the associated hues of orange, blue, and golden yellow in an abstract pattern – all under a ceiling following the olive tree influence, finished in beautiful wood veneers, and housing a sparkling light feature reminiscent of a thousand twinkling stars.
Due to its scale, shape, and location, the development stands out from its surroundings. It is positioned close to a residential area consisting of low-rise buildings and houses. However, the use of the Jerusalem stone cladding allows the building to blend in with its surroundings, as the same cladding is used on nearby structures. LACASA’s designers wanted the mall to blend within the overall colour palette of the area, while also presenting it as prominent landmark due to the contemporary architectural style, its size, and the use of media screens to attract attention.
Creating an unforgettable experience
Working with specialised sub-consultants, LACASA’s mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) team was able to design first-time attractions for the Palestinian market in the mall, including a large-scale ice rink and an indoor skydiving chamber. The mix of stores includes 135 retail units, five anchor stores, a hypermarket, 21 food and beverage (F&B) outlets, a food court, a kids’ play area, and a ballroom.
The F&B units were designed in a way that ensures that footfall remains consistent throughout the year, regardless of weather conditions. LACASA’s concept and interiors teams worked together to create integrated units that were not exclusively indoor or outdoor spaces.
During summers, patrons prefer dining outdoors, while during the winter, they tend to choose indoor seating. The LACASA team’s space-planning process took this insight into account by offering F&B spaces with both indoor and outdoor seating to accommodate the different seasons. During the summer, the glazed partitions that separate both spaces can be opened, exposing the indoor seating area to the view as well as fresh air.
The mall is the fourth development undertaken by LACASA Holdings and designed by LACASA Architects in the past four years. With a shared vision, both organisations have set out to elevate the standards of architectural design as well as construction in the country.
By presenting iconic buildings that stand out from the surrounding areas, the firms have begun to change the architectural elements that are typically used across the country. LACASA’s Dubai team has worked to understand the local Palestinian culture in order to design specifically for the market, while also integrating international elements within the exteriors as well as interiors.
In order to ensure that the standards of construction – including health and safety measures – are met, LACASA Architects has sent a team of its Dubai-based project managers to oversee construction progress. These experienced managers will direct and mentor the local engineers, and enhance their overall learning experiences.