Architectural Concepts In Retail

Architectural Concepts In Retail

21.06.22| Palesa Mguli

Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve seen a rise in online shopping but digital platforms cannot match up to human interaction and shopper experience. As much as there was a digital disruption in retail, it doesn’t mean that it’s the end of bricks and mortar stores just a whole new world for retail.


Retail Reimagined

Retail architecture needs to embrace public spaces that are innovative, sustainable and engaging.

Through classification of different retail structures (neighbourhood retail, mixed-use retail, high street retail, themed retail, lifestyle retail) and many more, we are able to derive different needs from each of them.

As social beings, retail needs to provide an experience not only for shopping but to engage, for community integration and encourage connectivity between retail and other surrounding institutions there may be. Here we may look into an example of mixed-use developments and one which is under our books is Nelson Mandela Square. It is a prime public space in the heart of Sandton CBD. The main objective in the design process was to create a dynamic civic space that would bring together existing disparate peripheral developments in Sandton.

Civic structures, such as a theatre, gallery and library, were chosen to feature prominently in Nelson Mandela Square. Glass arcades project into the square with seating for restaurants around a central water feature. Offices above the retail areas face the square and incorporate atriums to allow natural light into the building. These architectural features create an engaging social environment.

Nelson Mandela square

Nelson Mandela Square

Convenient Shopping

With the petrol costs now on an all time high, consideration for time, distance and convenience are important factors that influence our shopping, and going local with neighbourhood retailers that are closer to home, offer shops and eateries have seen a resurgence during the pandemic and are of a great convenience to those who work from home. An example of such a retailer is Waterfall Corner. A prime neighbourhood convenience centre in the landmark Waterfall in Gauteng is anchored by Woolworths, Checkers and Clicks. It also offers a vibrant public piazza at its heart, and its restaurants. As part of the immense 1, 6 million square metre Waterfall development of Waterfall, Waterfall Corner is positioned at a key point in what is arguably Africa’s fastest growing urban node.

Bentel & Associates International – Waterfall Mall

Enhanced Shopping Experience

One thing that online shopping does not offer consumers is the entertainment element. This enhanced shopping experience is more of a reason to visit a shopping mall than to just shop. Its appeal is  great for family entertainment, tourist attraction, child friendly spaces and much more.

This experience is often found in themed retail centres where it typically has a unifying theme that is carried out in their architectural design. What comes to mind is Monte Casino, a Tuscan-themed, mixed-use development that includes a hotel, retail areas, movie houses, a theatre and a vast gaming area. It is listed as one of the ten most lucrative casinos in the world and is a premier tourist destination in Gauteng. Monte casino is one of the truest expressions of the term “shoppertainment”, which is the creation of an all-encompassing themed environment that offers a multitude of facilities and recreational options.

Monte Casino

In a nutshell we need flexibility, innovative thinking, and a focus on the new ways that consumers are meeting their needs.


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.

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Palesa Mguli

010 590 7900

082 841 4111






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