Innovation, retrofitting, refurbishment, landscaping and spatial connections = Ferndale on Republic

Innovation, retrofitting, refurbishment, landscaping and spatial connections = Ferndale on Republic

Ferndale on Republic, previously known as the Brightwater Commons and the Randburg Waterfront before that, was initially created as a city waterfront development – a romantic notion in Johannesburg in the 1980s. The waterfront element was removed when it underwent a renovation and became the Brightwater Commons, which introduced landscaping and parks to the development as well as a flea market.

The Moolman Group has been instrumental in developing the new scheme, starting with the refurbishment of the existing cinemas into Kagiso Media’s new Urban Brew Studios. This project then served as a catalyst for the upgrading of the existing buildings as well as the addition of a new 27 000 m2 shopping mall. MDS Architecture was approached by the Moolman Group and asked to invigorate the development for the Ferndale on Republic Consortium (Moolman Group, PHG Group & Braam van Huysteen) and re-brand it as Ferndale on Republic. The new additions increase the total GLA to about 42 000 m2.

Sean Pearce, a partner at MDS Architecture, says that while some parts of the existing building will be retained, others will be demolished to allow for more efficient parking and to link it with the new enclosed mall. Landscaping will be a key design principle to soften the design and help integrate the old with the new.

We wanted to retain some of the nostalgia of a waterfront, as well as the greenery and landscaping. For this reason, greenery was used as a design ethos,” he says.

Randburg is experiencing rapid development. Ferndale on Republic has good access from both Republic Road and Hans Strydom with a quieter entrance via Cross Street into the neighbouring Ferndale. “We are trying to create a convenient, neighbourhood shopping centre providing a safe, family destination with feature lighting and pedestrian walkways, with creepers and living green walls. The large parking lot will be broken up by red brick paving and landscaped vertical screens, serving as a strong axial link,” he says. Pedestrians have much greater prominence and further design measures are being taken to soften the area.

The full development is expected to be completed by September 2019”

Large trees from the existing Brightwater Commons will be relocated to the main entrances to create strong focal points and connect to the past development.

The development will feature ‘green lungs’ around the perimeter where people can relax and enjoy a safe shopping environment. Ferndale on Republic will be a mixed use development with offices as well as large retailers such as Checkers & Pick n Pay and other national brands. Family restaurants and coffee shops will also be included throughout the new development.

Part of the existing mall attached to the waterfront/building will be incorporated into the new shopping centre mall and will have the feeling of an old railway shed or building. Red brick has been used to provide a warm contemporary aesthetic and the individual buildings create a village feel. “Shoppers will walk through the existing mall and then through into the new mall creating a special connection between new and old. We are working with existing structures and keeping high level windows but introducing new shop fronts and bulkheads. The retrofitting and refurbishment will create interesting interactions and spatial connections between the two structures,” says Pearce.

The interior will also include a lot of greenery to soften the spaces. Lighting and signage, floor tiling and paving will all contribute to a completely different experience.

Kagiso Media’s Urban Brew TV studios and phase 1 (refurbishment and construction of the first parking section) are currently underway and due to be completed in March and June 2019 respectively, with the full development expected to be completed by September 2019.

The co-owners are making a concerted effort to promote family retail again and for this reason, pubs will make way for Spur, Panarottis and other family orientated offerings.

Pearce believes that in its new form, Ferndale Mall on Republic has a romantic attraction. “It is an evolution that retains the good things associated with the development. The design is efficient but sensitive to the residential area adjacent to the site while taking advantage of accessibility and visibility from Republic Road,” he concludes.

Better life decisions with AI

Better life decisions with AI

By Vaughan Rowsell, CEO of Vend

When you think about artificial intelligence (AI) and how it will impact our daily life, what are the images you conjure up? Intelligent robot companions that clean and cook and keep you company? A disembodied voice that controls your car, home, TV and your life? You can relax in the afternoon by demanding “Computer, turn the lights down, run me a bath and play death metal”. We all relax in different ways. Or are you being really dark and the image of a robot army coming to retire all humans one at a time is how you imagine AI? Isn’t it exciting to think about how technology is going to change (or end) our lives?

Artificial Intelligence is in its basic form when a computer is able to make “intelligent” decisions that a human would otherwise make. So, lights that automatically turn on when it gets dark is a form of AI. Google maps finding you the fastest route to drive somewhere is a more advanced version of AI, and several levels up from there are self-driving cars that can not only turn on the headlights automatically and plan the fastest route, but can also drive you there without killing anyone along the way. Soon your Tesla can express its anger at passing human motorists with a robotic finger at which point AI has completely replaced us when it comes to driving.

AI is also now starting to appear in our homes as smart devices like Alexa or Google home, where they listen to our every word in hope we ask it something, like what’s the capital of Turkey, what’s the best Jason Statham movie and what’s a recipe for a good vegan lasagne. The “AI” is able to understand human speech and then, basically do a Google search on what we just asked and find the best result. When it can solve oxymorons like what’s the best Jason Statham movie then it can truly do more than what is human. As more of our devices we surround ourselves with get “hooked up” to the internet, these smart speakers can also interact with our TV, lights, doorbell and even the washing machine. So Alexa can blink the lounge lights when the washing is done, or turn the TV up really loud when it detects a door to door sales person via the video doorbell.

Computers are learning so much about us and learning new tricks to pretend to be us. They can listen, talk, give us advice and drive complex machinery. Soon the AI can be with us wherever we go to, like our own personal guardian angel, or virtual life assistant reminding us when to leave home to make it through traffic to our coffee date on time.

Vaughan Rowsell

The AI I imagine and want is like one of those spy handlers. The girl of guy in your earpiece, who lurks in a bunker at Langley or MI6 somewhere monitoring your every move and vital statistic, whispering to you the names of old school friends you have forgotten as bump into them at the mall and providing you the fastest route to escape an awkward conversation about their poor life choices.

My hope is we’ll all retain some semblance of free will in the AI driven world. So we can all make better life decisions, and have more time to bump into old friends.”

As technology becomes more and more portable, so do we become more and more mobile. As our lives become more automated, as cars drive themselves, as supermarkets predict and deliver the groceries we need, this all frees us up to have more time to do fun things. Like shopping.

But wait, isn’t automation and Amazon killing retail?

The retail industry is set to benefit immensely from technology and AI, and retail is an industry I know a bit about having helped it adapt to technology over the last 10 years. Technology and AI could do all our shopping for us. Technology and algorithms can find the right sized clothes and automatically pick items based on our preferences, AI can do this right now. But I don’t think we want to be dressed by our AI or have the gifts we buy our friends automatically picked for us based on their Facebook activity. That can lead to some really awkward “Make America Great Again” themed gifts. But mainly I don’t think we will delegate all this to AI because this takes away our free will and our ability to make choices. You can drive my car, and pick the route but please don’t pick my underwear.

Instead I think our personalised AI assistant will be there in our ears helping us find and navigate to the stores we are looking for, give us in depth product information as we hold an item, manage our finances asking us if we really need that new pair of shoes and finally have someone honest at the changing room to tell us if our ass looks big in this.

AI will automate the chores in life, like grocery shopping, making more time for us to cherish things and have new experiences.

More practically if you are the retailer then the time that AI will save you will be the difference between business failure and amazing growth. In small business this is where you will see AI make the biggest impact today. Every day small business owners are facing make-or-break decisions. Decisions based on data and 9.72 times out of 10 rely on solid analytical skills. Exactly the sort of thing that a computer is great at. Smart business assistants are already popping up, powered by AI, that can process all your key business data in real time and make sensible suggestions, like what your next supplier order should be based on how sales have been. AI can help you identify the profile of your best customers and give you tips on how to best engage with them. Every morning your personalised store AI can greet the store owner with the summary of yesterday’s sales and what to try different today. Try discounting these products, and these customers are slipping away so perhaps run an online campaign to re-engage with them.

I imagine AI as being that smart friend you want to hang out with because they make you smarter. Technology isn’t going to replace us, it’s going to free us up for the more important things in life, like meeting friends, going shopping or seeing our family. It will become our trusted advisor, it won’t run our lives or businesses, but it will give us some pretty good advice.

This, I guess, all depends on whether or not our personal AI assistant is provided “for free” by Google or Facebook. Nothing is ever free, and you will end up with an annoying friend trying to convince you to buy vitamins and matrices all day. My hope is we’ll all retain some semblance of free will in the AI driven world. So we can all make better life decisions, and have more time to bump into old friends.

Mirror, Mirror…in the Mall

Mirror, Mirror…in the Mall

The Foschini Group recently set out to highlight the natural beauty of women through a fun and interactive digital activation at Sandton City Mall.

Experiential activations agency, Living Masks, tasked Moving Tactics, South Africa’s leading digital signage solutions company, with the job of providing a solution that would attract shoppers’ attentions and encourage participation and interaction. There also had to be a way that mall-goers could quickly and easily share the interactive digital activation experience via social media.

The concept, developed by Living Masks magic-maker, Zelia Michaels Shangase, saw Moving Tactics’ Digital Impact division design and manufacture a custom-made mirror that would give women the opportunity of seeing their reflection on a specially treated glass panel that was concealing a 55-inch touchscreen. Combing these two elements in a custom-made housing, together with a DSLR camera and a wide-angled GoPro camera, we were able to create an experience for the ladies where they could see a full-length image of themselves in the mirror as well as a scaled-down version in the digital display.

“We used software designed and developed by the Moving Tactics Digital Impact team so that shoppers could take photos of themselves and then share them via various social media platforms. The GoPro camera was used to record photographic stills in the time-lapse function so that the entire campaign could be viewed in a high-speed replay,” says Andy Higginbotham, Creative Director at Moving Tactics Digital Impact.

According to Shangase, “Working on this campaign with Foschini has been an extremely fulfilling experience. The activation brought to life an amazing concept but more so a message that all women should have affirmed daily, which is ‘I AM PERFECT’. The interactive mirror that Moving Tactics developed was central to the interactive digital activation combining two winning elements, selfies and social media! What it truly did though, was allow women to see themselves as they truly are, in all their splendour and to share that with the world (via Facebook) #Nofilter”.

The #IAMALLWOMAN #IAMPERFECT Foschini campaign, which was inspired by the power and perfection of women, proved to be a success and a great way to honour the women in South Africa.

Moving Tactics is a leading South African digital signage solutions company that develops customised digital signage technologies and is constantly creating innovative communication solutions.