Dubai-based architecture and engineering firm LACASA has unveiled its design for a new large scale shopping mall in Ramallah, Palestine, inspired by the country’s economic and symbolic asset: the olive tree.
The olive tree, according to the architects, play a large role in the lives of Palestinians. Besides its economic significance, olive trees are synonymous with Palestinian’s attachment to their land and culture. This symbolism was used within the exterior facade, but more so, in the interiors of the building.
“We wanted to present this concept with a contemporary twist by utilising glazing and media screens within the elevations [of the building],” said Patrick Bean, design director at LACASA.
Jerusalem stone, being the dominant exterior material of surrounding buildings, was also used in the exterior cladding of the building, allowing the structure to blend within its context.
However, due to its positioning – the building is located close to a residential area consisting of low-rise buildings and homes – as well as its scale and shape, the building positions itself as a “prominent landmark”.
“We wanted [the building] to blend within the overall colour palette of the area, while also being a prominent landmark due to the contemporary architectural style, its size, and the use of media screens to attract attention,” Bean explained.
“The project is constantly playing a game with the contradiction of classical and contemporary, while bringing the outside in and harnessing it to offer a design that appeals to a sense of space.
“With this in mind we developed the context of the mall to offer a sense of place that could be identified but did not appear overtly literal. The finishes throughout are kept tasteful in their simplicity but speak volumes of the materials that are available within the region.”
Within the main atrium of the retail development, the structural columns assume a tree-like structure, ornately supporting an illusionary canopy. The use of pierced oak panels produce a dappled light effect reminiscent of the “airiness and nature of an olive grove” – in addition to offering acoustic balance.
Special treatment porcelain tiles – suitable for high traffic areas – are used in distinctive sizes to enhance the effect of sunlight passing through a tree canopy, while offering direction to the visitors.
Within the food court, where the use of oak fins produce yet another contemporary reinterpretation of a tree canopy, further nods to the Middle East are established. These include the use of carpets and embroidered wall hangings which support the hand-blown glass lighting.
The floor tiles takes influence from Moorish patterns, contrasting with the wood flooring, set under a Turkish blue ceiling.
Indoor and outdoor spaces were integrated mainly through the F&B units, where visitors are able to choose their seating based on weather conditions.
“Our space-planning process took this insight into account by offering F&B spaces with both indoor and outdoor seating to accommodate the different seasons,” said Bean. “During the summer, the glazed partitions that separate the two spaces can be opened, allowing for the indoor seating area exposure to the surrounding views and fresh air.”
The total built-up area of the retail development amounts to 50,000m2, consisting of six levels of retail space, and three levels of parking, making it the largest of its kind in Palestine.
The mall will feature 135 retail units, five anchor stores, a hypermarket, 21 F&B spots, a food court, a kid’s play area, a ball room, a ice rink, and an indoor skydiving chamber.
Additionally, a dedicated area has been assigned to include kiosks for Palestinian entrepreneurs to launch their businesses, and display their products or services.
Developed by LACASA Holdings, developed in conjunction with the architecture practice, by engineer-turned-architect Emad Jaber, the project aims to encourage innovation and economic development in the country. Read our full interview with Emad Jaber here.
“I have always been focused on enhancing the quality of life and economic well-being of my home country,” said Jaber. “I see the mall as a major step forward for Palestine’s economy; one that will go beyond providing a shopping destination. It will be a prominent social and entertainment hub for Palestinians while also encouraging local innovation and entrepreneurship.”
Bean added: “By undertaking a number of projects in the city, we were able to create jobs through the construction and operations to elevate the standard of design and construction capabilities by setting an example.”
The construction of the development is currently underway, with over 40% of the project completed to date. The mall, whose name will be revealed in October, is set to open its door in the first quarter of 2019.
In 2015, LACASA hosted a student design competition to create a school that will be eventually built in Ramallah, Palestine. The works of the three finalists can be viewed here.
The company has also recently added infrastructure design and supervision to its list of offered services in its Dubai headquarters.
During Dubai Design Week, The Palestinian pavilion, part of the Abwab initiative. was focused on the constraints of using olive wood that is available in abundance in Bethlehem but is undervalued. Designer duo Yousef and Elias Anastas (AAU Anastas) created a curved structure that showed off the versatility of the material.
AAU Anastas have also recentlyh completed a prototype of a free-standing stone vault in Jericho which will be later used for the construction of el-Atlal residency for artists and writers in the Palestinian city.