New Life For Shopping Mall Focus Of Design Contest Finalist

For theARK Humankind after COVID-19 international design competition, a team at Kostow Greenwood Architects captured recognition for a solution for out of use shopping malls.

A solution from a team of architects and designers at Kostow Greenwood Architects has been recognized as a finalist in theARK Humankind after Covid-19 international design competition. The detailed plan addresses challenges facing the physical retail industry, in particular antiquated large-scale shopping malls. The concept from the firm involves a dynamic mix of cultural space, public amenities, restaurants, retail and housing coming together as a new form of community center by re-purposing obsolete sites.

shopping mall
The transformed aims to spur economic growth within the surrounding area. The design concept incorporates a range of elements including a centralized state-of-the-art performing arts theatre, amphitheaters, nature walks and multi-unit residential buildings, amongst other elements that are integrated into the existing layout of the mall. (Rendering: Kostow Greenwood Architects)

The detailed plan from Kostow Greenwood addresses economic redevelopment and community revitalization through adaptive reuse of shopping malls and creative place making for the performing arts. The Northland Center Mall in Detroit, an underperforming shopping venue, is used as a case study.

“Commercial real estate owners and developers, city planning officials, public parks officials, and community organizations could apply our project and programmatic model at various scales to both public and private uses,” explained Michael Kostow, Founding Principal of Kostow Greenwood Architects. “Many cities are currently struggling with vacancies and lack of public spaces. Our team’s concept to repurpose existing infrastructure could potentially solve many of those issues.”

The award competition team members at Kostow Greenwood are architects Lena Fan, Gary Li, Marian Prado, and Arnost Wallach.

Their concept proposes an adaptive reuse strategic business model of an existing resource; abandoned or underperforming shopping centers. Instead of starting fresh, these sites already provide significant utility and infrastructure that can be repurposed into theatrical and support spaces. These sites are often centrally located within a community and can tap into existing public transportation and infrastructure systems. The submission from Kostow Greenwood addresses 125 acres with converted parking to activity spaces, repurposed department stores, new performance venues, new seating and queuing typologies, and new mixed-use programming.

“The best architecture seeks to create an environment that is accessible, comfortable and in benefit of users from any socio-economic status,” explains Gary Li when asked to expand on a motivating factor when working on the competition submission. “Good architecture has the ability to create innovative solutions despite budget, size, and program constraints.”

shopping mall
The proposed theatre building is nested within the preserved framework of the existing shopping mall. The open-air courtyard between the two buildings becomes a social gathering area. (Rendering: Kostow Greenwood Architects)

The performing arts program for theARK competition addressing under-performing malls incorporates new entry sequencing and seating layouts that can meet current social distancing requirements and adapt once these customs change. By taking advantage of the generous space a shopping mall has to offer, some of the existing uses can remain while providing additional public and outdoor spaces for gathering, maximizing flexibility for year-round use.

“With limited options available for activities outside of the home we want to provide a solution that motivates and provides a reason for safe physical interaction and collective gathering,” explains Lena Fan. “Since public gatherings cannot occur safely in most existing built environments, our concept seeks to offer a solution for communities to reconvene while maintaining recommended health guidelines.”

“Cities across the U.S. have varying levels of economic impacts from the pandemic so we want to identify a solution with multiple strategies that can be replicated in total or selectively onto any site,” explains Marian Prado. “We want to offer approaches that allow people to gather safely and amplify those opportunities across the site. We also want to carefully target economic trends and propose conceptual interventions to affected industries.”

View more of this plan on theARK Humankind after Covid-19 international design competition.

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