Refining Mixed – Use & Urban Design


Bentel Associates International is utilising its experience in urban planning and mixed-use projects to meet the needs of the changing business environment in emerging market economies.

31.10.2022 | Bentel Associates International

Over the past decade mixed-use real estate has received significant attention around the world. This attention stems from a number of factors ranging from the encouragement of such development by local planning authorities to increase density to the more recent interest in creating more vibrant, walkable and connected communities. By integrating smartly designed buildings and spaces that can perform many functions, encompassing a ‘mix ’ of retail, commercial, residential, hospitality and other leisure or recreational uses, these types of developments are able to engender life back into our urban areas and cities.

Established in 1960, Bentel Associates International (BAI) has been involved with a number of integrated mixed-use and urban design projects in South Africa and beyond its borders. Having been a pioneer of shopping centre design in South Africa, retail design has always been a core focus of Bentel’s expertise and experience over the years. With the shift to more integrated and larger projects, the influence of urban design and mixed-use developments has become more significant in the recent years in their portfolio of experience.

“Throughout Bentel’s history, we have been involved in all types of commercial orientated projects, with retail playing a significant role. There has been a recent focus in the last decade or so on urban design and mixed-use developments, and we are currently capitalising on this market trend,” comments Tim Harlech-Jones, Executive Director at BAI.

It is important to differentiate from urban design or multi-use in the context of large developments – mixed-use is a single structure of different components in a vertical arrangement, whereas multi-use refers to different structures that are intrinsically linked, whether this is an urban design context or even within a planned single development. Each one has its own challenges – the challenges in the vertical context will be the structural and services arrangement, yet the challenge in an urban design context is one to link the various functions and components with respect to accessibility, visibility, walkability. In both cases design and planning plays an integral part, and space making is important to consider in treating spaces between the building fabric in a positive light.

BAI has been involved with numerous mixed-use developments – examples locally include Nelson Mandela Square, completed in the 90’s and recently undergone a repositioning and refurbishment, and Bedford Square, a 50,000sqm retail, commercial and residential project in Bedfordview. Both examples are substantial vertically stacked buildings, which include different types of activities and offerings, with integrated public hardscape spaces.


Mixed-use schemes allow for a mitigation of commercial risk for the developer, due to the different offerings, and also allows for counter-cyclical behaviour for occupants of the different components in giving more life to the development throughout the day and night. Tim goes on to say, ‘Ultimately from a development cost point-of-view, this counter-cyclical behaviour can be used to garner efficient parking ratios to a scheme, which allows for substantially reduced costs to a development and depending on location of the development, can be reduced further based on access to public transport routes.’


BAI’s urban design expertise encompasses the planning of numerous large urban and peri-urban areas for the development of a range of functions that work harmoniously together – in this case creating multi-use environments which create communities. For example, BAI was involved in Waterfall City. BAI has also been associated with some of the architecture in this large growth node with the completion of a retail convenience centre in Waterfall Corner and an office component in the Cell C Campus.

There are numerous large urban design and mixed-use projects that are under concept in South Africa and beyond. However BAI are also engaged in such projects in the Middle-East and the subcontinent. One such example is the ‘Vegas’ development that is currently under construction in Dehli, India. Vegas, which consists of retail, commercial, residential and hotel components and covers a total of 205,000sqm of gross building area. This development recently won an Asia-Pacific Property Award for best mixed-use architecture, furthering the recognition of BAI’s abilities on the international stage. Backed by an award-winning portfolio of projects spread across the world’s emerging markets, BAI has been consistently recognised on a local and also international scale for its achievements across the mixed-use genre. With a clear aspiration to become a leading urban design and architectural company in not just Africa but in all emerging markets, the company continues to prove itself and deliver landmark projects with innovation and flair.


About Bentel Associates International:

Bentel is a leading African and Indian-based design firm established in 1960 which has a dedicated and focused service offering across multiple sectors, comprising retail, office, residential and hospitality projects. Today BAI is an award-winning architectural firm known for having designed many unique and landmark developments throughout the African continent and the Middle-East.

For any media enquiries please contact:

Palesa Mguli

010 590 7900

082 841 4111

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December 5, 2022

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