Mthatha Plaza Shopping Centre
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The Mthatha Plaza Shopping Centre represents a step forward in the creation of quiet urban shopping streets. The pleasant treed, cobbled streets create an oasis and bring a scale and accessibility to a town more known for its chaotic, noisy and dirty spaces. The success of this 35 000m2 regional shopping centre is also seen in the way both high spending clients from town and low spending clients from rural areas are at ease and mingle easily during their retail experience.
It represents a progression from the enclosed artificially lit and air conditioned box shopping centres which litter our towns and cities. Neither does it imitate the retail centres with shops scattered around a central car park. As such it begins to create a typology of shopping centre which should be further developed. A noteable improvement would have been to link the pedestrian streets created more directly to the streetscape and spaces of the town.
The commercial success of the Mthatha Plaza is noted with a zero vacancy rate. A contributory factor is the reduction in the cost of running the centre through use of natural light and natural ventilation of public spaces. The frequent interruptions to electricity and water supply are also mitigated through the design.
It is hoped that developers will learn from the successes of the design and in future provide briefs which provide both quality urban space and integration into the townscape.
All truncated references not fully cited below are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.