Dashang Group operates stores in some 150 cities throughout China, including its home base of Dalian. This highly effective retailer means to ensure its current success continues well into the future – not easy, especially with growing competition from the web. The real worry: losing internet-savvy young shoppers, who might be more likely to browse online than visit bricks-and-mortar shops.
To thrive, the company wanted to renew its Dalian-based complex, a collection of stores – including a budget-focused New Mart and Dashang Shopping Mall, two outlets of the high-end MYKAL department store, dubbed MYKAL and MYKAL2 – plus a movie theater, offices and a five-star hotel. All were built over a number of years and are connected by a vast pedestrian street network. Dashang Group planned to update the façade at one corner of the complex to create a new food and beverage building, plus modernize the landscaping among all the buildings. The company also wanted to expand MYKAL, and to install a pedestrian bridge to link it with the new food and beverage area. Dashang Group turned to architecture firm New Ground for the design.
More than a facelift
New Ground started with an in-depth analysis of the retail industry and similar complexes. The architects found that Dashang Group should go further than originally planned to truly compete with what’s online and attract young customers. New Ground proposed a more extensive and cohesive redesign to help transform the complex from a shopping area into a must-go destination.
“People won’t come just to buy a shirt,” says Nicolas Guarnotta, New Ground’s principal. “They seek an experience, somewhere they can meet friends and have fun with the whole family, a place that is living and worth returning to.”
New Ground developed a unifying strategy for modernized landscaping, façades, and pedestrian pathways throughout the complex. This grand vision called for a grand new name: Dashang City. Alongside the physical upgrades, New Ground proposed advanced technology to help equip the City for the future of retail. The overarching goal: lure young customers away from the web; convince families and groups to visit not just for an hour or two, but for the whole day; give shoppers an experience they’ll want to repeat by visiting time and again. Group Chairman Niu Gang approved and pushed New Ground to make Dashang City as bold as possible.
“Our client insisted the landscape had to be eye catching,” Guarnotta says. “So we split the walkways into long, intermingled waves of different colors interspersed with quieter stone paving.”
The design is sharp and modern, yet tied to Dalian’s history as a port on the Yellow Sea. “The main idea was to connect with the city’s cultural past, the historic fishing villages that once stood here,” Guarnotta says. “We envision a number of sea-inspired sculptures placed all around the pedestrian streets – some on poles, some emerging from the ground, so children can climb and play. We see a whale-tail fountain welcoming people at the north entrance, and the tentacles of a giant octopus as an attraction at the pedestrian crossroads.”
The design calls for different façades for each building to give the blocks their own distinct personalities, and also to help shoppers find their way: leaf-like folded perforated panels for the north part of the shopping mall, bicolor hexagon patterning for the New Mart, and a wind-powered façade for MYKAL2. That one is moving experience – literally. It features lightweight panels that catch the wind for an undulating effect that makes the wall seem alive and aligned with nature.
MYKAL gets a landmark-level corner atrium. “It creates an impressive signal – Chinese lantern-like – for the entrance,” Guarnotta says. There are also big glass displays where art and advertisements may be installed. An iridescent finish unifies the edifice.
The previous Dashang Shopping Mall South façade is to be opened and glazed, allowing natural light to flow into the area, which will serve as home to numerous restaurants. The design features undulating slab noses and a series of colorful twisting metal tubes to animate the floors and soften the silhouette.
In addition to architecture and landscape, New Ground and parent company Liruikai developed a map app for shoppers. The software works along with Bluetooth beacons throughout the complex to send targeted promotions and discounts to visitors as they walk, shop and take in the sites and sounds. At the same time, the technology collects valuable customer data to support individual stores.
Dashang City aims to be more than a retail area, and perhaps even more than a destination. Think community hub with strong ties to Dalian’s people and culture. To that end: “We developed a partnership with Liaoning Province Art Schools to give students the opportunity to showcase their creations throughout,” Guarnotta says.
“This project is wonderful for Dashang Group and for us,” he says. “It allows Dashang to renew its image and attract visitors. It’s a complete transformation. Everything is cheerful, youthful and family friendly, which it has to be in this age of omni-channel retail. And for us, we get the chance to demonstrate what we can do for clients on a larger scale.”
Dashang Group operates stores in some 150 cities throughout China, including its home base of Dalian. This highly effective retailer means to ensure its current success continues well into the future – not easy, especially with growing competition from the web. The real worry: losing internet-savvy young shoppers, who might be more likely to browse online than visit bricks-and-mortar shops. To thrive, the company wanted to renew its Dalian-based complex, a collection of stores...
- Year 2019
- Work started in 2016
- Work finished in 2019
- Main structure Mixed structure
- Client Dashang group
- Status Current works
- Type Public Squares / Urban Furniture / Bridges and Roads / Shopping Malls / Showrooms/Shops / Bars/Cafés / Restaurants / Structural Consolidation / Building Recovery and Renewal