Shopping centre design can go beyond simply being functional to enhance the visibility of the shops they host. Established rules exist for doing this through the organization of space and the creation of focal points among shops arranged cheek by jowl in strip shopping centres and shopping malls. These rules need to be brought into play in architectural design so that shopping centres also meet the broader requirements of urban lifestyles.
Since shopping malls have become fixed points on the urban horizon – a feature of their visual and material landscape – their design is obliged to not only be pleasing to the eye, but also to lend a different perspective to its setting, contributing to the creation of a new and complex landscape, in which the centre itself can become a quality benchmark. Their design can be a return to the idea of architecture constructing the forms of people’s lives. The potential of this idea was embraced in the project by Cherubino Gambardella, Simona Ottieri and their collaborators for the design of the shopping mall in Montesarchio (Benevento). The idea is also reflected in the name of this new structure, located on the Appian Way on the plain below the town’s fortress: dubbing a shopping mall ‘Palazzo del Commercio’ (Shopping building) means a shift in perceptions and making the development hinge on its design to denote its function.
The Montesarchio shopping centre is a large building, measuring 820 feet (250 m) in length, 230 feet (70 m) in width, and 33 feet (10 m) in height. It is a rectangular prism that needed to be recognizable for both its architectural character and function. The design therefore revisits a tradition of the earliest shopping malls, in which glittering merchandise was displayed against a backdrop of expressive architecture.
The sense of this being an urban location permeates the design, with shops on the ground floor, office space on the upper level, and parking at basement level, while the building also stands against the distant backdrop of the Apennines. The entrances are underscored by two large canopy roofs supported by towering columns, creating an evocative shape, which lends strength to the image of the construction.
The building has a split personality. At the level of the shops, it has a defence-like appearance, with grey pre-cast concrete panels that jut out like sharp scales in a design that freely combines five differently sized panels in a reinterpretation of ashlar decoration. Meanwhile, upstairs there is a gallery with rectangular pillars surmounted by the overhanging concrete roof, which runs the length of the building and overlaps the canopy roofs over the entrances.
The most prominent features of the interior are the corridors where the shops are located, a small elliptical ‘square’ onto which the centre entrances and travellators converge, and the rainbow of colours that mark the walls and ceilings of the corridors, creating a bright contrast with the severe, monochromatic appearance of the exterior.
Gross Floor Area: 60.000 m2
Cost of Construction: 60.000.000 Euro
Architects: Gambardella Architetti
Architectural Design and Art Direction: Cherubino Gambardella, Simona Ottieri, Mario Russo, Alfonso Mattia Berritto
Structural: Giuseppe Cecere
Okite Interior Finish: Seieffe
Aquapanel Finish on Canopy Roofs: Knauf
Photo by: © Gambardella Architetti
In 1995 the practice set up in Naples by Alfonso and Virginia Gambardella during the late Fifties turned into Gambardellarchitetti, a craftsmen’s laboratory for planning renovations and landscaping operations in which thoughts on theory alternate with design work. Since 1997 Gambardellarchitetti has included Simona Ottieri and subsequently contributions from young co-workers taking part in individual projects, research or competitions as a workgroup. The early focus on ecological and temporary architecture has shifted to residential and art display spaces, as well as the building-landscape relationship. From the outset the firm has won many competitions and created a number of public buildings in southern Italy, as well as the Certosa at Padula, the early-Christian Baptistry at Nocera dei Pagani, and the Sedil Dominova at Sorrento.
Gambardellarchitetti has always found time for university research amidst architectural planning.