The art – and science – of refurbishment

Transforming, refreshing and modernising existing shopping centres and retail environments requires considerable architectural skill, knowledge and expertise.

In this process, many factors are brought together to result in an aesthetically pleasing centre – an attractive and comfortable space for tenants and shoppers alike.

MDS Architecture of Sandton is a practice of 60 years’ standing renowned for its skill in this specialised field, having designed and implemented numerous revamps for centres over the years. Sean Pearce and Pierre Lahaye, two of the partners at MDS Architecture, share their design insights on two refurbishment examples, one completed in 2015, the other currently in progress:

Riverside Shopping Centre

Riverside Shopping Centre, Bryanston, was recently refurbished by MDS Architecture

Riverside Shopping Centre, Bryanston, was recently refurbished by MDS Architecture

MDS Architecture recently designed the refurbishment and extension for this landmark shopping centre in Bryanston. The contemporary design refreshed and revitalised the centre whilst retaining the village feel, attracting a fresh new tenant mix and new shoppers.

The owners, Moolman Group, wanted to preserve the charm of Riverside Shopping Centre while addressing accessibility issues and improving convenience and parking capacity,” says Sean Pearce, the partner at MDS Architecture heading the project.

Tenants needed to trade during the refurbishment and the commercial considerations associated with an existing property were weighed up in determining the best solution for Riverside. Ultimately, taking into account the yield on land value as well as myriad other considerations, a design began to take shape.

The existing building was well placed on the site but there was insufficient parking. For this reason, MDS Architecture retained the current structure and created new parking, almost doubling the parking capacity to 225 bays.

The team adopted a lean design and searched for ways in which to transform the aesthetic within the budget required for the developer to maintain its desired yields. “Working within the existing footprint, we honed in on areas that were dating the centre,” says Pearce.

Certain walkways were widened, natural light was maximised and the existing square was enhanced by re-orientating the views from the square to celebrate the outdoors.



The existing roof, including its dated skylight, was removed. In its place, a new floating roof was added to create a distinctive feature for Riverside Shopping Centre, particularly as one approaches the site from the spruit.



The main wall facing Bryanston Drive beneath the floating roof is utilised for elegant, monochromatic and eye-catching signage.

The floating roof was mindfully not enclosed to ensure that maximum natural light permeates the walkway underneath it. As a result, sunlight illuminates the walkway during the day. This is further enhanced by a new floor treatment of tiles in a lighter colour palette and texture creates additional interest,” explains Pearce.

Destination stores have been relocated upstairs in Riverside and a vibrant open square has been created by removing a portion of the previous parking area. “The harshness of the parking area was softened and in its place, we now have a pleasant, private and open space with a lovely ambience for restaurants,” explains Pearce.

Once the square was completed, Woolworths expanded its store from 420m2 to 1,650m2 and now offers a deli, bakery, fishmonger and a coffee shop.

On the exterior, parts of the original facebrick building were bag-washed in places to maintain the village feel. It also boasts a contemporary exterior cladding to create a more modern aesthetic while concealing previous inconsistencies and unsightly infrastructure.

The exterior cladding is a fibre-cement board applied to a lightweight steel screen (LSF). It simplified the alteration and had a massive impact on modernising the centre,” explains Pearce.

The square is now a vibrant space, complete with an animated and illuminated clockface on the wall facing the square. The clock feature can change in colour, which creates interest in the square.

Stonework on the square and at the entrances to Riverside helps to evoke feelings of village squares and adds to the all-important textural aspect of the refurbishment. Landscaping provides much needed greenery and softens the area around the square and the perimeter of the shopping centre.

Signage at Riverside Shopping Centre has been kept monochromatic for an elegant and understated look.

The wider walkway in the existing centre, coupled with white bulkheads, LED cove lights and elegant signage have created a new feel at Riverside. The existing shop fronts feature more glazing. “By pulling the bulkheads back and introducing cut-outs to the upper level, the existing shop fronts were modernised. The main walkway was widened by pulling back the line of the shop front bulkheads, thus giving the appearance of more space and light. The original shop fronts have been transformed into boxes which protrude into the walkway. We have maximised light, which always feels luxurious,” explains Pearce.

Since the revamped Riverside Shopping Centre was completed late in 2015, it continues to enjoy great support from local shoppers. Its tenant mix features national stores such as Woolworths and passionate owner-run businesses, from the Fruit & Veg store to the Riverside Bistro. Certain key tenants were located to the upper level to create a destination of similar offerings. The stores include a hair salon, make-up studio and laser therapy. The upper ground floor has been designated as the health and beauty section of the centre.

The new-look Riverside Shopping Centre is a true case of the ugly duckling becoming a swan and has managed to achieve the precise balance between contemporary design and a cosy, village feel.

Professional team

Client: Moolman Group

Project Manager: Orion Group

Architect: MDS Architecture

Quantity Surveyors: Aecom

Structural & Civil Engineer: Knutton Consulting Engineers

Mechanical Engineer IngPlan

Electrical Engineer Quad Africa


Southdale Shopping Centre

Southdale Shopping Centre is currently undergoing a refurbishment to MDS Architecture’s design which will transform the oldest shopping centre in Johannesburg into a light, bright, contemporary shopping centre for its loyal patrons. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2016.

Located in a well-established area in the southern suburbs of Johannesburg, Southdale Shopping Centre has been through a number of extensions since its original launch as an open arcade in the 1970s.

Pierre Lahaye, the partner at MDS Architecture heading up the project, says that the team decided to retain the origins of a high street concept, but evolve it into a contemporary interpretation thereof.

The new design features an abundance of natural light and tactile materials in bright and cheerful colours. “The project required a holistic view. The court areas are being opened up and the connection between the top and bottom floor is being stripped out to create circulation. In addition, the escalators are being moved from the entrance to improve flow and to minimise dead ends,” explains Lahaye.

Built in the 1970s by the same developers who constructed Hyde Park, the shopping centre enjoys great support from the well-established surrounding area.

Professional team

Client: ONE Group

Project Manager: Vertias Project Managers

Architect: MDS Architecture

Quantity Surveyors: Van der Westhuizen QS

Structural & Civil Engineer: C-Plan

Electrical Engineer: Debcon


MDS Architecture is an award-winning practice that has designed buildings that attract the business, the people and the activity that lead to a sustained performance. With a proud reputation since 1954, the practice is renowned for its skill in the sectors of hospitality and leisure, retail developments, offices, residential buildings and interiors.


Posted in Refurbishment.

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