Future-proofing Funan mall

One of the clusters in the new mall will be named Taste and this portrait titled Diggin' (left) is the artist's interpretation of it.
The new Funan mall will sport cutting edge features such as open studios where classes can be held for the public.PHOTO: WOODS BAGOT

The new mall has been designed with features that ensure it stays relevant to shoppers when it reopens in 2019

It will take three years before the new Funan mall is completed, so architecture firm Woods Bagot has designed features that will make version 2.0 "future-proofed".

When the mall is unveiled in 2019, shoppers will not see trimmings of a regular mall or a traditional layout.

The former Funan DigitaLife Mall closed for redevelopment on June 30 after 31 years.

Mr Mark Mitcheson-Low, 58, Woods Bagot's regional executive chairman, says: "Everyone in the business of doing malls will get better at building them.

"It is what you do and how you do it that changes the perception of the product."

Early plans for Funan, which is owned by CapitaLand Mall Trust, show a fresh, modern-looking building, with a facade clad with perforated, diagonally folded panels.

The interiors will be filled with features that adapt to the future retail scene and cater to shoppers who want a tailored experience instead of being bombarded with typical offerings, says Mr Mitcheson- Low.

The centrepiece of the new mall is "The Tree of Life". A wood- and-steel structure spanning the mall's six levels, it will run through the mixed-used development and house design ateliers and open studios where classes can be held for the public.

There will also be "passion clusters" organised around themes such as technology, fitness and food, where new-to-market or up-and-coming retailers can showcase their designs and products.

Level 4 will house a "Makers and Hackers" space for hobbyists and entrepreneurs to work on their creations.

There are also plans to give local fashion and lifestyle designs more room in the retail space.

It will also not be unusual to see cyclists zipping through the mall on their two-wheelers as they head to bike shops or refuel at cafes. Those who are heading to the office after a ride can freshen up at the shower areas.

A 4,000 sq ft rooftop urban garden will tap the popular trend of urbanites growing their own food.

There will also be two office towers and a residential tower.

It is a massive $560-million makeover for the mall, which was previously dominated by stores selling IT products, with a hodge-podge of eateries and music stores and schools thrown in.

Mr Frank Alvarez, 53, associate principal and global retail leader at Woods Bagot, who worked on Funan's design, says the features are a response to the new demands of today's shopper.

The global architecture practice opened a Singapore office in October and previously worked on projects here with clients such as Google and Singtel.

For Funan, the initial brief from the client was to renovate the ageing building, which opened in 1985 as Funan Centre. It was renamed Funan The IT Mall in 1997, and then Funan DigitaLife Mall in 2005.

It had many highlights, including having the first air-conditioned foodcourt. IT retailer Challenger Technologies opened its first outlet there, a megastore that was also Challenger's flagship store, at 53,000 sq ft.

Mr Alvarez says that while the mall was a familiar place, there was " impetus for change" as its developer CapitaLand Mall Trust wanted something different.

"Online shopping is a big challenger to physical shopping, and even with the latter, people are spoilt for choice. There's an attraction to certain stores, but not necessarily to a mall," adds Mr Alvarez, who has worked on large shopping complexes around the world since 1986.

So, the new look will give the regular Funan shopper more, beyond just their digital needs.

Mr Alvarez says: "They will still be familiar with Funan. We don't want to change the customers Funan had, but we want to tap into the rest of their life.

"We think that Funan mall can be reflective of personal life and have a little bit of everything."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 24, 2016, with the headline 'Future- proofing Funan mall'. Print Edition | Subscribe