In the second of her articles on shopping centres, Jane Embury, marketing director, looks at some landmark retail projects that we’ve been involved with.
We think of shopping centres as being a modern phenomenon. But shopping centres go back to ancient Greece and Rome.
In Greece, the shopping centre was a large open area called the agora.
The first proper shopping centre was built by the Emperor Trajan. That was some 2,000 years before our modern shopping centres came along.
Trajan’s shopping centre also had bars and restaurants, a precursor to today’s centres with all their added amenities.
The first modern shopping centre is generally agreed to been opened in the USA in 1907 Baltimore.
In the UK, the Co-Op opened for business in 1947. In 1976, Brent Cross in London became the UK’s first out-of-town centre.
But it’s not all good news in the retail sector with the likes of Amazon and other online retailers driving sales away from bricks-and-mortar shops.
Indeed, a recent report found that some 200 UK shopping centres are close to collapse.
Those most adversely affected are the centres that offer only limited choice and few amenities or leisure opportunities. But many are still doing well because they have been able to meet shoppers’ changing expectations.
Over the years we have been involved with a great many shopping centre projects.
Our internal and external systems help protect staff and shoppers from the threat of fire for up to 120 minutes. That’s important in a shopping centre that can be both large and complex.
In addition, evacuation times have to take into consideration the very young or the old and infirm.
But we’re especially proud of our work on projects that have helped define the what the shopping centre can achieve.
Because, at their best, they don’t simply provide retail and leisure space. They can transform whole areas of a city.
Regeneration through retail isn’t new, and our experience of such projects is truly international. Three such projects stand out as being of landmark significance.
The first was in Beirut, The Lebanon, where we supplied glazing systems to the US$160 million redevelopment of the Solidere Beirut Souks.
It created the country’s largest shopping area at 163,010 square metres. Inside, it has over 200 retail outlets, as well as leisure, entertainment and other public spaces. It brought back to life an area of the city that had been badly scarred by the country’s civil war. We supplied large-span curtain walling, as well as thermally-broken window assemblies.
The second landmark project was in Edinburgh, and the Sir Terence Conran designed Ocean Terminal.
Since opening in 2001, it has played a key role in the regeneration of Leith, Edinburgh’s port.
That seafaring history is reflected by the Royal Yacht Britannia which is moored at Ocean Terminal. It’s therefore not just a shopping centre but a destination for tourists from around the world.
Again, reflecting our systems’ ability to withstand high wind-loading, we were able to supply the entire frontage of Ocean Terminal.
The overall glazed span at Ocean Terminal is over 16 metres in height. The largest individual free-span is over 10 metres with grid centres of four metres.
It’s still believed to be one of the UK’s largest free-span curtain walling structures.
The third landmark project is Langham Place in Hong Kong.
It comprises a 53-storey office tower, a 5-star hotel with 665 bedrooms and rooftop swimming pool as well as 300 shops.
Our systems were installed across seven floors. They are to protect walkways between the main building and the shopping area.
They therefore protect important escape routes in the event of fire.
Langham Place was built in an area of the city that had become a red-light district. Now, it’s brought that area of the city back to life and become a significant visitor destination.
That’s what good retail regeneration can achieve, acting as a catalyst for new housing and other infrastructure projects.
But central to all shopping centres is the absolute requirement for fire safety.
We are proud to have supplied our internal and external advanced systems internationally, to shopping centres large and small.