Eastland Shopping Centre
I don’t like shopping centres. In fact I loathe them, but I do like photographing them and the journey to can be made a lot more pleasant if there’s some nice architecture to enjoy. Melbourne is quite spoilt for choice when it comes to attractive shopping centres, but Eastland in Ringwood has raised the stakes to another level entirely.
Stage two of Eastland’s $655 million redevelopment has been unveiled and connects a new retail precinct with the older existing shopping centre. Eastland is owned by the Queensland Investment Corporation, which has funded the expansion of the shopping centre by 55% to 350 shops or more than 131,000 square metres. It seems to me that little expense has been spared in designing and building a complex that looks truly impressive.
Where it all began
Eastland Shopping Centre opened in 1967 with a Myer store, Woolworths supermarket and a small number of minor tenants. It remained thus until the entire shopping centre was demolished and rebuilt in the mid-1990’s to allow for a massive expansion (only the Myer store was spared from the wrecking ball). Now, the shopping centre has been expanded again in a project that goes well beyond the shopping centre car park.
The new Eastland has been designed by The Buchan Group. Architecturally, there has been a focus on high-quality finishes in natural materials including stone, glass and stained timbers. Combined with the massive atrium windows, the centre has a light and airy feel about it. One part of the ceiling includes suspended alternating anodised aluminium blades that refract sunlight filtering through from the overhead skylights.
Instead of filling the centre of the mall with tenants, a priority has been given to clean spaces that contribute to that sense of openness.
Shop fronts have been designed with subtlety and sophistication to enhance the shopping centre’s clean design. Tenants have resisted the urge to install large gaudy signage and instead branding is small and tasteful. High quality finishes have been used, including some rather expensive curved glass on a number of corner stores. The overall presentation is slick and modern, but still sufficiently warm and inviting so as to attract shoppers.
I also noted the interior finishes in many of the shops were of a particularly high standard.
In the parts of the shopping centre where large atria could not be installed, ceiling decoration had been used to good effect to make the space seem spacious and interesting. I particularly liked the “ribbing” which extended around a corner mall.
An especially nice feature of the new Eastland Shopping Centre is the “beauty garden”. Internationally acclaimed London-based artist Rebecca Louise Law was commissioned to create a permanent inverted garden of over 150,000 preserved flowers suspended above a section of the mall. It not only looks good, but it smells good too!
The architects appear to have taken inspiration from other successful shopping centres in Melbourne such as Westfield Doncaster or Knox City Shopping Centre to ensure that there is architectural variety throughout the complex and places for shoppers to explore.
The Eastland Shopping Centre is now of a considerable size to rival both Knox City Shopping Centre in Wantirna South and Chadstone Shopping Centre.
Works at the Eastland Shopping Centre are still not complete. A number of shops are yet to be occupied, especially in the upstairs part of the complex. Large wall murals have been placed over the shop fronts as a temporary measure.
Integration with the street
Earlier, I alluded to the idea that the Eastland Shopping Centre redevelopment didn’t just stop at the car park. The shopping centre has been designed to integrate with the Maroondah Highway that runs outside the premises and over to the nearby Ringwood railway station, which has also been refurbished and upgraded.
A new library to replace a new library
One of the most surprising aspects of the new Eastland Shopping Centre is that the City of Maroondah permitted the demolition of the old library for a new one. The previous building was a mere 21 years old and had won several architectural awards in its own right including the Royal Australian Institute of Architects (Victoria) Award for Urban Design and Award of Merit for New Institutional Public buildings in 1995.
What has taken its place is sufficiently meritorious in its own right to allay any serious outcry, but one must ask how this liberal use of public money is good for taxpayers. The new library complex is called “Realm” and also includes a ‘service centre’ for the City of Maroondah council as well as a small gallery.
The older part of the shopping centre is being integrated into the newer part of the complex. I noticed that a number of shops had ‘closing down’ signs but the plans don’t seem to be public.
As I wrote earlier, I really dislike shopping. So if you want to discover whether Eastland Shopping Centre is a good place to shop rather than a good place to admire commercial architecture, you’ll have to go and discover that for yourself.
That said – David Jones did a superb job of concealing the escalators in their store. Whilst I am sure some clever person thought that forcing people to traipse through an entire women’s wear floor before moving upstairs was good for business, I was in search of a pair of men’s shoes. I didn’t buy any women’s wear but I did feel quite annoyed (and embarrassed) that I was unable to locate the hidden escalators.