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London Meets Melbourne as International Designers Reimagine The Suburban Shopping Mall

With the recent completion of the Sage Hotel, Ringwood, QIC has fnished its radical overhaul of the 1960s Eastland Shopping Centre. Located in a suburban fringe of Melbourne, Australia, the new mall is the product of an unusual partnership between three design practices in London: ACME, Universal Design Studio and Sofroom. QIC commissioned Seventh Wave to appoint these three studios and oversee the project which spanned half the globe.

Architects ACME designed the new hotel, as well as creating a town square, a sculptural entrance to the mall (the Shard), a library and civic centre, the David Jones department store, and a number of multi-storey car parks. Universal Design Studio were responsible for the interior design of the refurbished central mall, as well as the smaller link malls. Sofroom designed a large glazed roofight that links the existing part of Eastland with the new Town Square.

The new town square (or piazza) inverts the original inward-facing 60s masterplan and offers the area a civic focus. Shoppers are lured outside of the interior mall into the daylight and a new sequence of spaces, forming a new public heart for Ringwood and Maroondah. Eastland is the first in a series of major transformations of shopping centers by QIC, acting as a test case to demonstrate the ways in which commercial and civic spaces can coexist happily and form real public facilities for the local community.

Rising out of the center of the square, the Shard provides access into and out of the mall, topped with an undulating roof, which soars over a transparent glass base. Next, to this, a new Library replaces the smaller facility demolished in 2015, forming a civic landmark for the entire development. Conceived as a shaded box of books and digital information, the library’s more solid upper section appears to float above a glass box beneath that houses public functions including a café, art gallery, and citizen advice center.

The 120-room hotel is wrapped in a fritted glass wall that gives the impression of a pleated white curtain falling gently across the six floors contained within. At night, filtered waves of light shine out from the bedrooms, turning the entire glass box into a lantern that glows within the development. The hotel sits atop a car park that is surrounded by an ever-changing pattern of alternating concrete fins, creating a cinematic sensation of movement for drivers traveling past the building at speed.

Governed by the City of Maroondah, the suburb of Ringwood has been growing fast for the last few decades and it is one of the more affluent areas east of Melbourne. The Eastland Shopping center has dominated the area since 1967 when it opened with a large Myers Department store. By repositioning and extending the center, QIC was able to reimagine the way people will access the mall and use public space and transport. The redevelopment of this center is the first step in a larger regeneration programme of the entire area.

> Via Archello

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