The Thavhani Mall, a 50 000 sqm regional shopping centre, is located in the centre of Thohoyandou in Northern Limpopo and has been carefully planned to offer substantial and meaningful benefits for the local economy.

The shopping centre was designed by MDS Architecture for clients Flanagan & Gerard, Thavhani Property Investments and Vukile Property Fund. Donald McGillivray, the MDS Architecture partner who headed up the project, says that Thavhani Mall is the focal point of the large mixed-use urban precinct mega development, Thavhani City, which is being developed on a 27 ha site in Thohoyandou. The precinct includes an office park, a value shopping centre, motor showrooms, medical clinic and a hotel with conference centre. “The Thavhani City Precinct is likely to create a new city centre for Thohoyandou. The shopping centre design incorporates an option for a further 20 000 sqm extension as part of Phase 2 of the existing shopping centre,” he says.

Entrances and exterior treatment

Thavhani Mall has five entrances – two on the upper level and three on the lower level. The entrances to the mall feature high volume canopies held up by abstract structures which evoke the language of the Baobab tree. The entrance design is mindful of the concept of pause and gathering. “The entrances resemble shaded, sculptural baobab trees under which visitors may pause before they enter,” says McGillivray.

Bright colours have been incorporated into glass entrance lobbies to reference the colourful regional artwork and fabrics endemic to the area. Lighting at the entrances draws visitors into the building. “Wind lobbies coming off each entrance have coloured vinyl, creating a lingering glow in the evening. During the day, colour glows into the mall are created by sunlight surrounding the entrances,” explains McGillivray. “It was critical to illuminate the external lighting to the five entrances properly so as to create an iconic night time beacon and make a feature of the entrances, highlighting the baobab tree and lantern concepts to the wind lobbies,” he says. Uplighting and downlighting have been used to highlight the entrances and entrance features, while starscape lighting has been used at the entrance ceilings. The wind lobbies to each entrance are lit up at night to create a lantern effect with the different colours of glass used.

The exterior finish of the building is a combination of painted bagging in earthy tones and face brick in terracotta and beige satin. “Given the high humidity and rainfall in the area, maintenance was a consideration in the selection of finishes,” says McGillivray.

Interior spaces

The mall’s interior features double volume spaces. McGillivray says, “Openings have been created in the floors to allow the abstract trees to push through to the upper level from below.” There was a conscious effort to create as much natural light as possible, which was achieved by the inclusion of high level clerestory windows. The building is completely illuminated by the natural light from these windows during the day and complemented by accent lighting. “Internal mall lighting was consciously kept to a minimum during the day,” says McGillivray.

A common thread of recessed cove lighting and ceiling bulkhead lighting was used to tie the upper and lower levels mall together. The feature courts within the mall are where zones were created and each court has a specific theme and lighting to suit.

A pixelated leaf floor pattern incorporated into the floor of the mall creates the illusion that the ‘trees’ have shed their leaves. The colour palette is a timeless black and white combination, which adds a contemporary feel to the shopping centre. It is infused with earthy blues, browns and greens while vibrant splashes of orange, yellow, blue and red uplift the monochromatic scheme through mall furniture.

The three main circulation courts are double volume and bathed in natural light from clerestory windows wrapping around the high level perimeter and each of the courts has its own aesthetic theme. The Edgars court references the earthly terracotta via an eye-catching light feature made of terracotta pots turned upside down.

The Woolworths court has a custom-made light fitting constructed with Consol jars by Optique Lighting Design, while the central court – the main feature court for promotions – has tube light fittings to give it scale. The central court also includes a glazed feature lift.

Mall facilities

An interesting aspect of Thavhani Mall is that it doesn’t include a dedicated food court. Instead, focused food offerings are clustered around the entrances. “The upper level at entrance four is where visitors will find fast food outlets while entrance five offers restaurants. Entrance three is also focused on food, and the other two entrances on the lower level are banking areas. Prayer room facilities are available and there are two large ablution amenities on each level. The design of the upmarket ablution facilities includes an unusual configuration to make smaller areas work better, using central islands with vanities in the middle of the space so visitors can walk around them for easy circulation patterns.

As temperatures in Thohoyandou soar to highs of up to 50 degrees Celsius in summer, the interior is climate-controlled. All clerestory windows on the south side are well shaded to ensure no heat build-up or unnecessary glare. In addition, the massive canopies at the entrances ensure heavy shading.

Thavhani Mall has domestic water/fire tanks, so its water supply is fully backed up. It also has backup generators and many tenants have their own generators as well. The onsite borehole is used for irrigation and has a shutoff valve that can be opened if the domestic tanks run out of water.

“Feature lighting is critical to the look and feel of a mall, and day time clerestory lighting in the internal mall spaces creates a more natural feel. Furthermore, energy saving lighting is critical in a modern mall environment, as is creating design control zones for each shop window display so the lighting can be controlled to add to the general atmosphere,” concludes McGillivray.


Client: Flanagan & Gerard; Thavhani Property Investment; Vukile Property Fund


Tenant Co-ordinator: Orion Project Managers:

Architect: MDS Architecture:

Quantity Surveyor: Norval Wentzel Steinberg:

Structural/Civil Engineer: L & S Consulting:

Electrical Engineer: Taemane Consulting Engineers:

Mechanical Engineer: Q-Mech Consulting Engineers:

Fire Engineer: Specialised Fire Technology:

Main Contractor: WBHO Construction:

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