MDS Architecture has designed a shopping centre on a prominent site adjacent to the N3 in Alexandra, which opened to the public at the end of March 2017. Located just six kilometres from the Sandton CBD, Alex Mall was developed by McCormick Property Development in association with Valumax.

Lighting Alex mallThe multi-level modern design includes three attractive, colourful entrances on the upper level and another two on the lower level of the long, cascading building. The top floor of Alex Mall features two soccer pitches in an Action Soccer facility, which is expected to be a significant attraction. A food court is situated around the main entrance, including a covered outdoor section, while a large taxi rank is located on the lower level under the slab, helping to ensure that the development meets the growing needs of the surrounding community.

Louis Pretorius, partner at MDS Architecture explains that the mall design included a number of bulkheads and required indirect and cove lighting. “At MDS Architecture, we always incorporate natural light in our designs,” he says. “While the final result is radiant lighting, one of the challenges of indirect lighting is that one is only able to work with light reflections, and therefore we could only achieve a 50% output on the ground level. High ceilings of up to 8 m also contributed to the light loss factor.”

Barend van den Berg, project design engineer at ING Plan, a multi-disciplinary consulting company, says they worked closely with MDS Architecture, who took them through the drawings early on. “Based on the brief and the drawings we received, we undertook simulations and provided comparisons between indirect and direct lighting solutions. The simulation process involved building the ceiling bulkheads for the mall in Relux so the team could see exactly how the lighting would look and the light levels that would be obtained. We collaborated extensively to ensure that none of the light sources could be seen and to introduce natural light in dark spots. The combination of natural and accent lighting gave us a great final result.”

The lighting inside Alex Mall was such that the architects did not need to create special lighting for the Living Museum housed within the mall. “We installed security lighting (up to 50 lux) around the perimeter of the mall and uniform lighting in the parking areas,” says Pretorius. “The soccer fields on the roof required a uniform spread of light and we needed to ensure there were no dark spots on the field. Genlux undertook simulations and we used 400 W high pressure stadium lights on masts to achieve uniform illumination.” Although lighting at the lift and escalators landings has to comply with Occupational Health & Safety Standards, the supplier Schindler has its own standards for easier maintenance; for this reason, these areas required additional lighting.

Pretorius explains that although budget constraints are often a pressure point in terms of lighting solutions, owing to the collaborative approach on Alex Mall, they were able to get the right outcome within the budget available. “By choosing an indirect lighting scheme, the budget for the mall lighting was significantly lower,” says van den Berg.

“We worked with the Quantity surveyors from Quanticost, architects from MDS and the client project manager to come up with a design that was more aligned with the budget. To avoid dark patches, MDS Architecture did a great job of introducing natural light in an attractive way to areas of the mall where the light levels were low. The QS also did a good job of adjusting costs to make the required changes in the budget possible. The main contractor, Mike Buyskes Construction and Walter Staal, contributed with the design, installation and successful implementation of the sky-lights installed in the mall area.”

The final result illustrates that by working as a cohesive team from the start, it is possible to produce a successful result – on time and within budget.

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