‘Emporia’ in Malmö, Sweden, one of the largest malls in Europe, has been designed by the Sweden-based firm, Wingårdhs. It is a sprawling example of a shopping complex that is both environmentally sustainable and architecturally innovative.
Arguably, the most ardent refrain of every urban dweller the world over is this – how many malls are too many malls? Most cities, suburbs, towns and half-way-to-anywhere are landmarked by hulking malls, arcades and shopping complexes that often seem to have slid off the same assembly line of glass and steel.
In this sometimes upsetting landscape of repetitive drabness stands ‘Emporia’. Located in Malmö, Sweden, this gigantic mall is a statement in realising sprawling but highly environmentally-conscious architecture.
At the helm of the project, which was commissioned by Steen & Ström Sverige AB, and completed in 2012, was Sweden-based firm, Wingårdhs, led by Gert Wingårdh, Johan Eklind and Joakim Lyth, who infused the breath-taking expanse of the building with remarkable sensitivity of both the sustainable and the aesthetically-pleasing kind.
Emporia has two entry points – made up of over 800 film-covered panes of glass – the most remarkable of which is the ‘Amber Entrance’, formed of gleaming, glazed glass panes of brilliant amber framed in steel. The architects decided to break the monotony of a regular, flat-faced façade by puncturing this one in the middle to show a sudden slump, making it look like a superhero flew through it on his way to work.
The overall effect is startlingly original and establishes the architectural ingenuity of the structure, as well as its intention of detouring from a well beaten path. The second entry point is the serene, marine blue counterpoint to the bling of the amber, and is aptly named the ‘Sea Entrance’.
In the design process, the architects were inspired by the openness of the sky. This influenced the team’s reliance on natural materials, spacious layouts and the suffusion of light, air and greenery within the mall. “Our goal was to create a place where everybody would feel at home and yet find surprises around each corner,” the designers state.
The fulcrum of the green credentials here is the coveted BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology) Certification, Emporia has been awarded, making it Sweden’s first environmentally certified mall. The certification assesses material, technique and effect before awarding a structure its approval.
Emporia’s design incorporated the Geberit Mepla piping system, which is reputed to be highly durable, leak-resistant and allows for faster installation; this greatly helped the certification assessment process.
The mall is topped by a 26,000 sq m spread of a public park that features hillocks and spectacular views of Malmö and the Öresund Strait. This unusual addition to the exterior is also a part of the mall’s green identity, as it provides natural pollution-control, temperature-control, and just lots of precious breathing and relaxation spaces.
The mall’s holistic approach to green design also factors in the easy access to the mall from most significant transport mediums around and it has made provisions for a total of 2,700 parking spaces.
To ease the senses of the roughly 25,000 daily visitors around the 68,000 sq m area of the 200 stores of the mall, the interiors have been divided into five brilliantly-colour-coded ‘galleries’. Adding a sense of natural whimsy to the place is a ‘Flower Court’, which features seven floor-to-ceiling ropes with plants crawling up them.
There are also the elevator towers, wrapped in flowers and looking like resplendent newly-weds. There are about 3,000 plants in total in the interiors, making it more naturally placid than what any mechanical machine array could have achieved.
Of the mall’s total floor area of 93,000 sq m about 11,000 sq m on the 4th, 5th and 6th floors are reserved for office spaces. The mall’s presence and potential for employment, exemplary environmental commitment and architectural finesse are also significant for the development-focused district of Hyllie, which has a bigger aim of becoming the most environmentally sustainable area in the Öresund region.
Emporia defies a lot of conventional wisdom to stand at an essential design and sustainability meeting point. Its size may seem too unwieldy to support green aspects, but it achieves that balance with much careful detailing. It also reminds us that shopping complexes, however big or small, needn’t rely on just blinding light for aesthetic effect.
At Emporia, the Swedish curator, Claes Söderquist, picked art pieces ranging from photographs to glass paintings to a bronze sculpture to help create an ambience of elegance and vitality. A rare touch for a rare kind of mall indeed.
Text By Shruti Nambiar
Photo Courtesy Tord-Rikard Söderström