The Future of Retail

Commercial & Mixed Use

A Ride into the Retail of Tomorrow 

Ushering in an era of infinite imagination, retail is undergoing a rapid transformation. The shopping experience is evolving at a lightning pace, fuelled by the ability to influence consumer psychology and subsequently the industry as we know it. Gone are the days when going to the mall was the only way to indulge in retail therapy. As the tech evolution grows, experiential branding is taking the lead and overtaking traditional retail spaces that only display products. When it comes to design, stores and retail spaces are being revolutionised to meet these limitless new opportunities.

There is no doubt that the era of ordinary, dull shopfronts and interiors is coming to an end, making way for flexible, adaptable structures that can accommodate a wide range of experiences. Successful retail spaces are now taking advantage of the intrinsic analogue aspects of our lives while integrating them with online strategies. The resulting reimagined spaces will appeal to our fundamental human needs for social interaction, physical activity, and sustainability beyond what has existed before. 

An automotive immersion

The design trends for global motor vehicle showrooms are set to follow suit, heading for a similar transformation. Showroom floors are decreasing in size, with fewer cars on display. What’s more important now is creating immersive brand experiences that capture the visitor’s attention from the moment they spot them. These showrooms are no longer just places to showcase vehicles; they are becoming dynamic, multi-functional spaces. They serve as community hubs hosting events, workshops, and social gatherings, fostering customer engagement and loyalty.

The intersection of creativity and technology

For the future of car showrooms, there is also a clear trajectory towards interactive spatial concepts, leveraging cutting-edge electronic, lighting, and audio technologies. This visionary approach is exemplified in the groundbreaking work of luminaries like Random International and Random Studio. Seamless skins that bend and push material boundaries epitomise the quest for heightened flexibility and transparency in design. These innovations will profoundly impact architectural landscapes, with existing structures repurposed to accommodate brand pods, while temporary installations will proliferate in unconventional locales, ushering in a new movement of experiential automotive displays at the intersection of creativity and technology.

Cross-platform collaborations

The latest in South Africa is that outdoor activities are becoming increasingly important in our primarily digital world. We are sure to see more cross-platform collaborations that combine automotive brands, lifestyle elements, and sporting activities. The future of showroom design lies in creating mega-campus projects where buildings blend seamlessly into outdoor environments tailored for hosting a variety of events and activities, whether they are sports-related or cultural.

As we move towards experiential retail, the key lies in creating environments that cater to our desires for vitality. By blending physical and digital realms, designers can create comprehensive experiences that go beyond mere transactions, cultivating long-lasting relationships with customers. The future of retail is a vibrant tapestry of sensory appeal, interactive engagements, and sustainable practices, seamlessly blending the best of both analogue and digital worlds.

“Innovations will profoundly influence the impact of architectural landscapes, ushering in a new movement of experiential automotive displays at the intersection of creativity and technology.”

Michal Korycki
Director, Craft of Architecture

architecture expertise

What Does an Architect Do?

What Does An Architect Do?


When embarking on a construction project, be it a new home, a commercial building, or a renovation, one of the key players you’ll need is an architect. But what exactly does an architect do, and how can they help you bring your vision to life? 

We have identified the ten key actions that architects undertake to support their clients:

1. Design Expertise

Architects are the creative minds behind the aesthetic and functional aspects of a building. They take into account your preferences, local building codes, and the natural environment to design spaces that are not only visually appealing but also highly functional.

Source: Kerzner Leeukoppie Estate House 19

2. Site Analysis and Planning

Before putting pen to paper, architects conduct thorough site analyses. In South Africa, this includes understanding the terrain, climate, and local regulations. This knowledge ensures that the design integrates seamlessly with the environment and complies with legal requirements.

3. Client Collaboration

Architects work closely with clients to understand their needs, preferences, and budget. Through detailed discussions, they translate your ideas into a tangible design that reflects your vision while considering practicalities.

At COA, our client relationships are important to us which is evident through our set of core values:

  • We listen
  • We care and take pride in complete accountability.
  • Enjoying the experience is fundamental to our joint success.
  • Growth through collaborative relationships.
  • Creativity with efficiency.

These values determine and guide our client interactions. It is crucial to find an architect who is able to give you the experience you need to complete a successful project. This all starts with communication and collaboration.

4. Technical Expertise

Architects possess a deep understanding of construction materials, techniques, and technologies. They ensure that the chosen materials are suitable for South Africa’s specific climate conditions, providing durability and efficiency.

5. Regulatory Compliance

Navigating the regulatory landscape is crucial for any construction project. Architects are experts in local zoning laws, building codes, and permitting processes. Architects act as liaisons between you and the authorities, ensuring that all necessary approvals are obtained.

6. Project Management

Architects play a vital role in project management. They coordinate with various stakeholders, including contractors, engineers, and interior designers, to ensure that the project progresses smoothly and according to the established timeline.

7. Budgeting and Cost Control

Managing costs is a critical aspect of any construction project. Architects assist in creating realistic budgets and provide guidance on cost-saving measures without compromising quality. Far too many projects go over budget when in reality, if proper planning and budgeting is conducted, there is no reason for running over budget. It is important that your architect acts with urgency and diligence when budgeting costs for your project.

8. Sustainability and Energy Efficiency

In South Africa, where sustainable building practices are increasingly important, architects integrate eco-friendly elements into their designs. This includes utilising energy-efficient materials, incorporating renewable energy sources, and optimising natural lighting and ventilation.

View our journal on the V&A Waterfront Swing bridge we recently completed and how sustainability measures directed the design and construction of this project.

9. Cultural Sensitivity

Given the diverse cultural landscape of South Africa, architects understand the importance of incorporating cultural elements into their designs. They respect and integrate local traditions and heritage, creating spaces that resonate with the community.

10. Post-Construction Support

An architect’s involvement doesn’t end with the completion of the construction. They offer support during the final stages, ensuring that the project meets the expected quality standards and addressing any unforeseen issues.

In conclusion, an architect is not just a designer; they are integral partners in bringing your construction project to life. Their expertise, technical knowledge, and attention to detail are invaluable in ensuring that your vision is realised seamlessly and in compliance with regulations.

If you’re embarking on a construction project in South Africa, consider partnering with our experienced team of architects. Together, we’ll transform your ideas into a functional, beautiful reality that stands the test of time.

Contact us today to discuss your project and discover how our architects can turn your vision into a reality.

Marine Walk Shopping Centre


Marine Walk Shopping Centre

Sibaya, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa

Marine Walk Shopping Centre is located in KZN’s up and coming Sibaya precinct, promising residents of nearby areas a convenient and family-centric retail space. Project lead, Devmco Group’s Brad Winstanley believes that convenience and connection are two of the most important factors for people looking to change and improve their lifestyles.


The need for a local retail centre was identified due to the increasing expansion of the Sibaya Precinct.

Research showed that the demand for a centre came not just from the residents in the immediate area but also from the wider community. The concept for the design originated out of the desire to create a community centred space, where residents could do their shopping at the Spar and Woolworths and other retailers and then meet up with friends at one of the restaurants for a meal afterwards. And that is exactly what has occurred, as a variety of restaurants offer up-market dining options within the inviting inner courtyard. In fact the successful tenant mix has been a drawcard for visitors to the centre. A children’s play area within the courtyard creates a family friendly environment. The Covid years changed the way people shop, with many making increasing use of online shopping. A successful modern retail development thus has to become a lifestyle as well as a retail destination in order to attract visitors.

“We have set our sights on improving the quality of life for people in the area through this shopping centre. We are proud to have created a curated collection of retailers in a safe shopping space, with an open-air courtyard and restaurants that spill out into nature. It is a space that inspires relaxation, entertainment, and connection,”


The Site

The site selected for the centre on Jabu Ngcobo Drive is situated in a depression, backed by a large bank which has been levelled out onto a platform. The challenge for the architects, COA, was to accommodate a traditional linear mall of approximately 9,000 mon a steep, irregularly shaped site.

The design solution was to break up the straight line by creating a ‘boomerang’ shaped island in the front of the building that also allowed for a central courtyard. The result is that the main retail elements face the parking which provides the required exposure whilst the restaurants are situated further back within the courtyard created by breaking the linear profile. It was also important to orientate the building towards the busy intersection, ensuring good visibility. The goal was to meet the criteria set by the client and retail tenants, with regards to accessibility and visibility on a challenging site. Accessibility to back of house delivery areas is just as vital the success of a centre as access to parking for visitors, and the architects worked closely with the engineers to achieve the right levels for the access road at the rear of the centre. The centre is fronted by a double level of parking, with both shop level and basement parking available. From the basement you can access the shops either via escalator or lift.


The use of concrete in the façade worked quite well as its fluid nature allowed for the creation of some interesting soft forms, particularly in the courtyard area.

This created a more organic form compared to the standard angular strip mall design. Concrete is also beneficial as it is low maintenance and relatively easy to construct with. The concrete forms were kept clean and uncluttered, with nothing attached to the soffit. Lighting is attached to columns and signage to the walls in order to preserve the lines of the concrete. Water is collected on the surface of the canopy and taken down the inside of the concrete support columns. The end result is a large but very thin and delicate canopy. Other materials used include a dark facebrick and timber elements which provide some softness and texture to the design. The use of concrete also extends to the polished concrete floors which have a shaped curb edge to echo the organic curves of the roof. The floors are edged with a tile detail along the edge of the shopfronts.


Creating a sustainable retail development was important to Devmco and a number of sustainable initiatives were incorporated. Marine Walk is powered off of a 1MW direct current solar plant.

All of the rainwater is harvested off of the roof for use in the ablutions and for watering the landscaping. The environment on which the centre was built was also taken into account. Originally an old sugar plantation, the land had been denuded of indigenous coastal bush and tree species. These have now been reintroduced into the centre’s landscaping. Adjacent to the centre the wetlands have been rehabilitated and replanted with indigenous species. The developers have also taken into account the pressure placed on the existing sewerage network in the area. A direct sewerage line has been linked directly to the Umdloti Wastewater Treatment Works in order not to place any further strain on the sewerage network. All streetlights within the development operate off of solar powered batteries. Timber is sustainably farmed and building materials are recycled wherever possible. Open air spaces within the heart of the centre allow for natural ventilation and surround the visitor with natural landscaping.


“We have created a shopping and lifestyle space where convenience is at the heart of this offering as we work towards redefining the customer retail experience. Retail is shifting, and customers are embracing the move to smaller, more intimate shopping zones. They no longer need to travel to the large ‘city centre’ malls to get their shopping done, when they can do it right here, and enjoy the same service excellence from their favourite local brands, in the fresh open air on the coast – close to home.”

Charles Thompson
Devmco Group Director

Architect & Builder, Umhlanga Arch

Commercial & Mixed Use, Hotels & Lodges, Interiors & Brand Architecture

Umhlanga Arch

Umhlanga, Durban, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa

Four years since announcing the commencement of the world class R1.3 Billion Umhlanga Arch development, the first phase of this mixed-use precinct is now complete. The development first broke ground in October 2017, planned as a joint venture between. The Multiply Group and Devmco Group.

Four years since announcing the commencement of the world class R1.3 Billion Umhlanga Arch development, the first phase of this mixed-use precinct is now complete. The development first broke ground in October 2017, planned as a joint venture between. The Multiply Group and Devmco Group.

Recognised immediately by the iconic arched façade, the development brings the idea of mixed-use living to life. Live in luxury apartments and work in AAA-grade office spaces in the state-of-the-art glass arch. Stay in the South African flagship Hilton Garden Inn. Play along the European-inspired High Street and experience bespoke retailers and curated events in the Legacy Yard. Savour new tastes at Legacy Yard Food hall. Share drinks with friends at the Back Yard rooftop bar.

Location and Site

Umhlanga Arch is located between Ncondo Place and Vuna Close on the sea facing slopes of the Ridgeside precinct at Umhlanga Ridge outside Durban. 

The prominent sloping site has a height allowance of up to 235msl, with a height difference on the site of approximately five floors. Ridgeside is a four-precinct development that will complete Umhlanga Ridge. The 140-hectare site lies nestled within a rough triangle created by Umhlanga Rocks Drive and two major highways, the M4 and the M41 and on completion will effectively link Umhlanga Ridge to Umhlanga Rocks.

Client Brief

The brief to the architects, Craft of Architecture (COA), called for a mixed-use development of 45,000m2 of bulk which, when added with parking and services, ends up at an area of 90,000 m2 .

Being a corner site with maximum height allowance, the client wanted something special – something different to what was currently available in the area. An important aspect of the development idea was also based on the mixed -use concept of live, work, stay and play… all in one place. The development was to include: A ±5,000 m2 dealership, which comprised of ±3,000 m2 showroom and ±2,000 m2 of state-of-the-art workshop facilities; A 203-room Hilton Garden Inn; 162 apartments, with Penthouse suites and 30 New York style lofts; ±2,000 m2 of retail with food and beverage laid put as a typical London high street; ±6,500 m2 of AAA grade offices; During the project the development brief also expanded with an addition of a Legacy Yard food hall and The Pencil, an exclusive members club.

Planning Considerations

Due to the scale of the project and the various components that had to go into it, the planning process happened in 3D by stacking simple building blocks. 

Large volumes of parking are required to accompany this type of brief and this was located in a naturally ventilated semibasement of 8 floors between Ncondo Place and Vuna Close. This parking block became referred to as the podium. It starts at the bottom of Vuna Close and terminated three floors above Ncondo Place. There was a special requirement to have the dealership easily accessible from the main access road, Ncondo Place, and to give the dealership exposure to Umhlanga Rocks Drive. The residences and the hotel would be positioned on top of the podium at the part of the site where the height limit allowed for a tall block. It seemed fitting that the larger resident component would be on the seaside and the hotel box on the street side. The public component of the high street was placed on top of the podium occupying the 3rd floor above Ncondo Place. This also allowed for enough height to ensure panoramic sea views and a safe pedestrian environment free of cars. The commercial component of the offices seemed to be best suited at the corner of the site facing the busy M12 above the dealership.

Design Details

  • A podium was created with the required 8 levels of parking bridging the gap between the Ncondo PI. and Vuna Cl.
  • The roof of the podium acts like a park with lawns and trees surrounded by shops and restaurants.
  • All the blocks are accessed via the public park on the top of the podium, ensuring that the shops and restaurants are activated.
  • There was an intention to express these blocks individually but they needed to come from the same ‘family’. The bold form of the design was intended to withstand all the differing components and inputs.
  • The distinctive arch in the office wing creates interest and invites one to explore beyond the arch. The reflections in the arch soffit highlight trees from the street and cars from the park.
  • During the design and development process, and in response to the urban planning part of the parking façade facing Vuna Close, this was improved by being lined with loft apartments.

Design Components


The podium was mainly designed to accommodate parking requirements, but as the design developed certain responses to brief and urban framework had to be considered. The dealership and lofts were inserted into the podium block. In order to activate the street edge at Ncondo PI. all the pedestrian vertical circulation from the parking was moved to the front of the building. This included escalators, glass lifts and stairs.


The dealership ended up working best on two 4.5m high levels, with easy access off Ncondo Place to the showroom on the upper level. The bottom level is divided into a used car showroom and workshop with 18 service bays. The two levels are joined by a glazed double volume space on the sea-facing corner where a sculptural stair is suspended alongside a suspended feature car.


The 5 levels of AAA grade offices have been shaped into a curved wing acknowledging the prime corner positioning of the site. This is further accentuated by the wing being pierced with an opening from which the name Umhlanga Arch was later derived.

High Street

The high street is on top the podium on the 3rd floor above Ncondo place. The internal parking circulation has been positioned on the street edge to activate and allow easy flow to the public square. The center of the high street is design like a park with a lawned area for sitting or playing lined with trees and benches. The park is surrounded by shops and restaurants. All visitors to the residences, hotel and offices access via the area.

Hilton Garden Inn

The first Hilton Garden Inn in South Africa, the hotel is positioned adjacent to the access street and has 203 rooms located over 14 levels. The windows are vertically staggered to contrast against those of the residences.

Materials Used

There was an honest approach to the materials used, with off -shutter concrete, high performance double glazing and steel structures with timber and aluminium screens and louvers. 

The use of plaster and paint was minimised where possible. Face brick was used on the High Street to create texture and warmth. The colours that were selected for the façade were toned down, complimenting warm greys. The precinct has a prescribed colour pallet the architect needed to adhere to which is challenging when working with brands that have their own colour requirements. This was the case with the dealership for SMG/BMW which needed to be entirely white in colour.


One of the main challenges was maintaining the cohesive core concept with all the ongoing changes. 

Structural planning and services coordination in a mixed-use environment was also challenging. Offices on top of the retail, on top of the dealership showroom on top of a workshop all require different column spacing. The complexity of integrating the different uses /services/brands identities and expectations of elements stacked vertically and horizontally while also consolidating and taking them through eight floor structure gave the building an extreme complexity in nature. At the same time the team was challenged with proving the user with a clear, uncomplicated experience both visually and through usage and experience. It was an extremely complex program and set of challenges that entailed a large part of the process being removed that complexity for the users, providing them with the desired experience of a true mixed use building. One of the façade challenges was the size and clarity of the glazing on the façade of the dealership. The glass needed to be clear as possible to ensure optimal display of the cars to the passers-by. This requirement is challenged by the loss of control of heat gain when the glass is too clear, making the space too hot and bright. The glass panels similarly needed to be as large as possible in the sizes available but large panels require bigger obtrusive mullions.

BIM Challenges

In order to keep up with the fast pace of the project it was agreed upon to utilise BIM techniques as much as possible, to rationalise the documentation approach and accommodate the fast-tracked demands of construction. 

Documenting and Collaborating on a Durban based project, from a Cape Town office was assisted by the use of cloud-based platforms, which helped improve consultant communication and productivity. The BIM model was separated into various parts to accommodate the scale of the project. All consultants were on a separate platform to the architects i.e., ArchiCAD vs Revit, which meant that clash detection methods needed to swiftly be implemented to combat a demanding construction schedule. This was facilitated through weekly ‘LAN Sessions’ held at COA’s Durban office, which turned out to be a first on the professional platform in South Africa.


Umhlanga Arch has succeeded in cohesively combining every element of mixed-use development with a bold design statement that adds vibrancy and life to the rapidly evolving Ridgeside development.

Introducing Ocean Dune Sibaya

multi residential, FEATURED PROJECTS

Introducing Ocean Dune Sibaya

Sibaya Coastal Precinct, Durban, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa

Luxury seafront apartments occupying prime position within the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast’s new Sibaya Precinct, OceanDune Sibaya is set to be the landmark development inside this high-end coastal node.

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