As shopping malls decline and die all across America, other countries offer innovative, revitalizing approaches to adaptive reuse

For years, we’ve been witnessing the decline and death of shopping malls all across the United States, a trend that only accelerated as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

Many REVITALIZATION readers consider this good news, since these malls—especially those on the outskirts of town—were major factors in the devitalization of their downtowns. A community without a healthy downtown is like a person without a healthy heart.

But what to do with a dead or dying mall? We’ve seen several wonderful examples of cities that have repurposed, renewed and reconnected (the reliable 3Re Strategy for revitalization) mall corpses in wonderful ways, many of them documented here in REVITALIZATION.

Rotterdam-based MVRDV has worked on a number of projects which address this shift in a revitalizing manner, from the under-construction Marble Arch Hill—a temporary installation that aims to entice visitors back to London’s Oxford Street—to the Tainan Spring in Taiwan, a green oasis that opened in 2020 built on the foundations of a half-demolished shopping mall.

Now, MDRDV has proposed a gorgeous design for transforming the Heuvel shopping mall in Eindhoven, Netherlands into a green cultural quarter.

The project integrates culture, recreation and retail. It retains and expand the existing buildings while repurposing their roofs into a public park.

The proposal also expands the Muziekgebouw (music hall) into a stacked cultural building encased in a “glass mountain”, which creates a new landmark for the Heuvel area.

MDRDV’s strategic vision was presented on May 18, 2021 to an enthusiastic response from the mayor and aldermen of Eindhoven, paving the way for a feasibility study of the Muziekgebouw that is expected before the end of the year.

The project is the result of an agreement made in 2020 between CBRE Global Investors, the municipality of Eindhoven, the province of North Brabant, the Muziekgebouw Eindhoven, and VNO-NCW to develop a regenerative solution for the outdated Heuvel shopping centre and the Muziekgebouw, a music venue located in the existing shopping center.

In MVRDV’s vision, the Heuvel will be transformed into an urban quarter where shopping, culture, and recreation take place in the same location.

The existing buildings will be expanded and broken open so that they better connect with the surrounding public spaces and cultural buildings of Eindhoven’s inner city.

The covered passages of the shopping centre are replaced with open streets, making the quarter an active part of the life of the city, while the roofs are accessible and green, creating a park that adds to the area’s attractiveness.

Above the existing Muziekgebouw will be a stacked cultural building under a “glass mountain”. This mountain – which visitors can climb for beautiful views of the city – creates an eye-catching landmark for the Heuvel, and makes the quarter an important contribution to the densification and greening of central Eindhoven.

It also creates additional space for the Muziekgebouw, allowing the venue to adopt a broader program.

Culture makes a city attractive, and a city as fast-growing as Eindhoven deserves a central music venue that is more visible,” says MVRDV founding partner Winy Maas.

Our vision is an open and accessible shopping, residential, and cultural quarter. We achieve this by radically opening up the existing buildings, transforming the complex into seven new city blocks, and expanding upwards from the roofs. Our goal is to make the complex attractive again for all the people of Eindhoven who want to shop and go out, while at the same time ensuring interaction with the inner city. In our vision, the area will have a totally different allure,” he concluded.

The ambition is to turn the Muziekgebouw into a living room for the city: during the day, Eindhoven residents will be able to stay in the building’s foyers to work or relax.

With this new mix of functions and the much broader program offering, “Het Heuvelkwartier & De Muziekberg” (“The Hill Quarter & The Music Mountain”, as the proposal has already been christened) will draw Eindhoven residents in greater numbers.

As the 2020 book, RECONOMICS: The Path To Resilient Prosperity documented, the cities and regions that will thrive in this current era of increasing, overlapping crises are those that have a strategic process for regenerative their natural, built and socioeconomic environments together.

This Eindhoven effort could be a good example of those principles at the smaller, project-based scale.

All images courtesy of MVRDV.

See MVRDV website.

You must be logged in to post a comment