Shopping mall is becoming a norm for upcoming town around Thailand. It is undeniable that the mall is one of an important urban space but often time, the outdoor space is full of parking area and has a utilitarian look that would alienate the user. For this project, Landscape Architect plays an important role to deliver a space that satisfies mall’s functional requirement and at the same time create a memorable urban experience under limited budget. For Chiang Rai, the scale of this mega mall seems majestic and can be too overwhelming. Therefore, the front landscape serves as transitional space for visitor at ground level and helps to mitigate the visual impact to the surrounding when view from afar.
The landscape design encapsulates the mountainous scene of Chiang Rai into an illustrious sculptural space. The unique characteristic of contour line pattern representing the local mountainous territory is our inspiration for formation of not only the spaces but also every landscape detailing. At the center of the landscape area is the ‘Event Plaza’ which has a requirement of 1,500 sqm. To offset the hardness of this massive paving area, we introduce the stark pavement pattern that reflects the contour line. The long seats, as an integral part of the contour, wave around the plaza and even crawl down the step to provide maximum rest area sufficient for the big crowd at peak time. More individual planter seats in irregular oval shape are arranged at the ‘Lower Promenade’ to allow smaller group gathering. Strip lighting is integrated under all the seats to reveal curvy line of light at night.
Interplaying of level from upper to lower promenade is employed to further express the undulating terrain concept and provides better access to the mall’s interior at multiple levels ensuring maximum exposure for all shops. At times, the level is split from the upper plaza to allow fresh air to the parking area below.
Intertwining flower mound and contouring water cascade compliment hardscape detailing and help soften the atmosphere of this eventful ‘Cultural Plaza’. During off-peak time, the plaza becomes a quiet park providing a place for respite.
To deal with limited budget and naturalistic shape of the concept, simple environmentally friendly materials like sand wash and terrazzo are used to construct pavement pattern and the fluid seat respectively. Their flexible nature makes constructing natural form possible.
Planting Palette and Ecology
Selection of native plants further enhances the northern atmosphere as well as corresponding to the regional dry ecology. Unlike lower region of Thailand, seasonal flowering plant here blooms furiously and is one of the tourist attractions during winter months. ‘Red Silk Cotton Tree’ – locally known as ‘Ngiew Tree’ – is the main feature. It is majestic in form with unique thorny husk and famous for its flower as an ingredient in traditional delicacy. The columnar and layering form of the tree also allows view to the shop front which is a major requirement for the commercial property. During January to March, Ngiew’s bright orange flower blooms in profusion and is accompanied by orange flowers of Trumpet Vine which covering the wall on the façade and also other flowering shrubs on ground.
Collaboration with Local Artist
Shma’s collaboration with world-renowned local earth artist, Master Somluk Pantiboon, is resulting in a series of 5-piece sculpture floating over cascading water feature. Placed as a focal point of the landscape, the ceramic sculpture is depicting the life cycle of ‘Ngiew flower’ from budding to blooming to withering.
Despite its private entity, shopping mall will increasingly become an important public domain for many countries. It is a challenge to define an appropriate space that would do justice to both contradicting interest of private/public, shopping/resting, and loud/quiet. Central Plaza Chiang Rai’s ‘Cultural Plaza’ is an artistic celebration of local identity that welcomes local residence to use as commercial leisure or as a park.
Central Festival Chiang Rai
Client: Central Pattana Public Company Limited
Location: Chiang Rai, Thailand
Landscape Architect: Shma design
Collaborators: ARCHITECTS 49 LIMITED
Photographer: Wison Tungthhunya