Resembling many other public spaces that make up our cities, shopping malls are a consequence of spatial evolution. It started as streets and bazaars, then shops and boutiques and now colossal air-conditioned hubs of entertainment that are the centres of public interaction.

Particularly in Asian cities, malls have become a symbol of luxury. They have become more about exploring, discovering, fun, gratification, entertainment, socializing and even bonding with family or friends, rather than just shopping. 

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The R City Mall in Mumbai is one such destination. It was proposed to be one of India’s most stellar shopping complexes and Mumbai’s largest Retail destination. The complex acts as an enclosure for a mix of grocery, fashion, entertainment and dining making it a complete family experience. Even the official tagline says, “R City has it all”. The mall is often visited by high profile Bollywood celebs and has hosted multiple promotional events. It was designed by Hafeez Contractors for the Runwal Group. His design was seemingly inspired by the city of Mumbai itself.

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The planning of the mall is conceptualized to represent the history of the city it is designed for. Mumbai did not always hold its current geographical shape. Once a scattered group of several islands, the town took its current form after several land reclamation projects spread mostly over the eighteenth century. The area that is the core of Mumbai city today was the amalgamation of seven historically rich and culturally diverse islands – the Isle of Bombay, Colaba, Old Woman’s Island, Mahim, Mazagaon, Parel and Worli. 

Hafeez Contractor thus divided the complex into seven zones to represent the seven isles.

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Located in Ghatkopar, West-Mumbai, the site previously housed an industrial unit for an international pharmaceutical company. The immediate neighborhood consists predominantly of industrial buildings and low-income housing. The area then had a surge of residential projects and the 18-acre site is now accessible to over six million residents within a 30-minute drive. It is strategically located in central Mumbai attracting a diverse crowd of different income groups. 

The mall can also be easily accessed by local trains and metro. R City has not only benefited from its location but elevated the prominence of the area it is located in as intended by the architect.

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Hafeez Contractors has zoned the mall with four distinct criteria in mind. The ground floor majorly consists of Youth and International brands, the first floor houses a prodigious hypermarket and other popular brands, the second-floor focuses more on women-centric stores as well as children and home stores and the third floor is dedicated to dining and entertainment. The anchor stores are deliberately placed on the four corners of every floor with smaller brands and indigenous brands placed along the way to attract more consumers.

The mall spreads across 1.2 million square feet with the capacity to deal with over 350 stores. Hafeez Contractor had stated that as executing architects for this project, the more than one million square feet of space was a challenge to build in this overcrowded, bustling district that is Ghatkopar. Therefore, the mall was opened in two phases.

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The plan evolved as an interconnected ‘U’ shaped diagram. The mall highlights four levels of retail spaces designed in the Italian “Galleria” fashion that can also be seen in Hafeez Contractor‘s other project Hiranandani Gardens. The complex incorporates two sprawling acres of central park that runs through the site with extensive landscaping, gardens and signature towers, each exuding a unique attribute of Mumbai.

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It has a multi-story sky-lit atrium more than 20 meters high. The full-height glass is supported by a cable net structural system. The atrium along with the beautifully landscaped parks contribute to the further integration of the outdoor spaces with the indoor spaces providing users with a unique experience. The mall has a convenient multi-level car park capable of accommodating two thousand cars. The top three floors of the complex consist of offices.

The main attractions of the mall apart from its impressive lineup of stores are its impressive 9 screen multiplex, a large plethora of food and beverage options, offering choicest world cuisine options, the sole mall with KidZania and a star-studded open courtyard with musical fountain provide the foremost vibrant experience to shopping enthusiasts covering over 20 million happy customers in a year.

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The mall has had to close down in recent times due to the pandemic. They have therefore adopted a few changes and strategies in hopes of being able to open soon. These include; Intelligent Appointment Scheduling to Manage Entry & Exits, Mall Density Control & Checks, Thermal Camera-based Temperature checks, Masks being made Compulsory, Contactless Parking and Payments, Sanitization Pits to Disinfect Tyres of Vehicles, Sensor-based Hand Sanitizers at Strategic Locations, Sanitization of High Contact Surfaces Regularly, Strict Adherence to Social Distancing Guidelines of 1.5 meters, Restricted Entry at Outlets and Food Court, Contactless Food Ordering System, UV Filter for Drinking Water, Improved and Moderated Air quality. These changes are only possible due to flexibility in the design achieved by Hafeez Contractor.

A New York Times article once described Hafeez Contractor as having no distinct style except a penchant for glitz and that certainly holds for this project.

Hasiba Barisa
Author

"Hasiba is an incessantly curious, student of architecture. She is perpetually fascinated by people, their stories and their experiences with built forms. Her hopes for the future are adamantly idealistic as she hopes to improve the lives of as many as possible with conscious and pragmatic design."

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