Rethinking the Suburban Shopping Centre
Auckland city is New Zealand’s fastest growing city which continues to sprawl outwards degrading the biodiversity of the natural systems. The population’s culture of the ‘quarter-acre dream’ opposes intensification in low rise suburbia. While suburban shopping centres are the product of urban sprawl they are now situated in central areas relative to the growing city. Their land is now more valuable than the surface car parking that occupies the majority of the site and has the opportunity to foster intensification. In addition, these centres no longer provide a new exciting retail experience and the retail environments lack any point of difference between suburb to suburb, city to city and country to country. The research explores three bodies of work; new urbanists Jan Gehl and Peter Calthorpe; retail theory on theatrical experience from the architect Jon Jerde, and eco-master planning of Ken Yeang. Forming the hypothesis that ecology has the ability to facilitate the hybridisation of new urbanism and retail environments creating identity and sense of place for an intensified suburban-centre. Ecology has the capacity to create a theatrical experience to re-image the retail environments towards environmental conscious consumption. The inquiry contends that urban planning and development has fragmented the regions natural systems degrading the biodiversity of species that once occupied the built area. As we continue to consume more land and more commodities, we become removed from the environment, the thing that gives us life. The outcome of this investigation is an urban masterplan and framework for Highland Park Shopping Centre, accommodating commercial, retail, recreational and residential activities in the form of a new suburban centre that reconnects and enhances the region’s natural systems. The centre becomes a catalyst for further intensification in its surrounding context. The strategies employed for the design case study can be replicated at other suburban centres allowing intensification to be enriched from the sites ecology.