Human settlements have for centuries developed in mixed-use patterns; blending a combination of residential, commercial, cultural, institutional, or industrial zones. Knight Frank, one of the world's largest global property consultancies, affirms that given the lack of housing supply and land constraints, mixed-use development is an important and necessary part of the regeneration and urban renewal process.
The term mixed-use, though straightforward, varies in various zones, cities and countries. However, key elements define the present mixed-use approach as a space that amasses different users, designed with a revenue generating approach, with a significant functional and physical integration of spaces and services. While developing mixed-use zones in entirety is often not feasible, either by a single developer or without municipal support, vertical single unit mixed-use developments have been in play. The early examples of these vertical mixed-use developments are the apartment buildings with ground-level retail spaces.
Recently, major vertical mixed-use developments have presented themselves as a phenomenon, with the real estate industry investing in the opportunities to create vibrant, sustainable, revenue generating spaces. Vertical mixed-use developments hold potential and advantage over the typical single-use structures, making them the next step for sprawling cities.
The design of a vertical mixed-use development must achieve an efficient solution to integrating the spaces while isolating the individual services. They are also required to manage the sensitive spaces such as commercial offices and residential, with regard to potential disturbance causing aspects of public spaces such as hospitality and retail outlets. Altitude (Colombo, Sri Lanka), designed as a ball balanced between four bats to commemorate the achievements of the winners of the 1996 Cricket World Cup, is an amalgamation of retail and commercial, residential, institutional, hospitality, and public spaces.
Form and function, the most hackneyed words in architecture, have been major influencers of design world over. Commercial structures, however, demand the additional integration of performance and management, which helps maintain the revenue generating component. Mixed-use projects offer developers the opportunity to spread risks while generating higher yields. At the same time complementary tenants attract prospective consumers from a variety of sectors. Raghuleela Mall (Navi Mumbai, India) is a classic example, where the mall is constructed on an IT Park plot, giving the retail sector its prospective consumer. While the 60% of the plot consists of the IT Park, zoning dictated that 40% be used for commercial purposes, and we incorporated a mall, a multi-screen cinema, banquet facilities and swimming pool equipped gymnasium. The location, next to the local railway station, attracts an even larger number of daily commuters passing by. The commercial spaces have been designed to be open and permeable to encourage people to walk through the site, while the central atrium of the mall encloses a public piazza which establishes the social focus. The services were planned to ensure that the baraat* (wedding procession) headed towards the banquet facilities, did not clash with the corporate functions of the IT Park. With different users, using the same space, in different moods, and different attires; separating the main areas as well as the service areas is the solution to smooth functioning of the mixed-use development.
Mixed-use developments, whether horizontal or vertical, promote smart growth. While creating new urban strategies and synergies in an existing city is challenging, it does lead to efficient land use. Integrating different zones makes them readily accessible in one location, while reducing the dependency on public and transport facilities. We stand at the beginning of a revolutionary era, where the mixed-use developments are substituting the high-street concepts of the mid 20th century.
**Featured as Guest Column in Home & Design Trends - Commercial Design Special (Vol 3 No 2)