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20th Aug 2022

Architect Africa Online

Africa's Leading Architecture Aggregator

Rustenburg Mall design provides unique sensory experiences and urban art gallery

After almost seven years of planning, Rustenburg Mall opened its doors on 29 April 2021. Designed by MDS Architecture, the development is a collaboration between Moolman Group, Twin City Development and JB Holdings.

Pierre Lahaye, partner at MDS Architecture, says “The design of the 40,000 m2 Rustenburg Mall is rooted in the context of its surroundings, both natural and developed. The renowned Rustenburg Kloof features dramatic rock formations and iconic Acacia trees. The broader area has several agricultural businesses, and the site is located within 1 km of the largest public transport hub in South Africa, which serves both taxi and bus commuters.”

The form of the building mimics a tree. The tree symbol is so entrenched in the plan of the building that it also serves as the key design element in the logo for Rustenburg Mall, which is a clean and contemporary take on the revered Acacia tree.

There are over 120 stores in Rustenburg Mall ranging from popular national tenants to new stores such as Drip, Home Choice, Legends Barber, Sneaker Factory, Offspring by Uzzi, G-Star, Polo, Primark by Truworths, and Le Coq Sportif as a stand-alone store.

Client brief

The public transport hub and broader road infrastructure were important to consider in the design, as was climate control considering the high temperatures experienced in Rustenburg.

Construction challenges and infrastructure investment

Construction commenced in October 2019 but the project faced delays due to the six-week Covid-19 lockdown during construction. Despite these challenges, Rustenburg Mall opened within a month of its original opening target.

Pieter Lombaard, CEO at Moolman Group, says that the team worked tirelessly to make up construction time lost during the lockdown. “The professionals rallied together to meticulously work out ways to complete the project on time despite the halting of all construction works. Their efforts have ensured that Rustenburg Mall is yet another exceptional retail solution with incredible customer experiences – all within the planned time frames.”

New link roads connect the Rustenburg community with major arterial roads. A covered pedestrian walkway – one of the largest in the country – creates a convenient connection from the city centre and transport hub. It encourages commuters to explore the precinct and brings people into a world of retail.

Says Lahaye, “The arrival of shoppers on foot or via public transport provides an opportunity for developments like Rustenburg Mall to become meeting places that create new city squares with retail offerings.”

Structural design and exteriors

Rustenburg Mall has three entrances, which evoke inviting tree-like canopies as if to invite gatherings. Each entrance also features large sculptural signs made up of individual 2m-high lettering structures to proudly emphasise Rustenburg.

The contextual rock formations and Acacia tree inspirations have translated into the structural design and aesthetics of Rustenburg Mall. Careful attention has been given to bespoke features which celebrate creativity and mimic its natural surroundings.

Lahaye says that the design of the roofs at Rustenburg Mall is inspired by Acacia trees and their symbols as expansive shelters for get-togethers. Exterior tactile materials like timber and steel are softened by vertical gardens which blend into the very fabric of the building.


Internally, Rustenburg Mall’s design offsets timber and crisp white features for a contemporary, organic experience. The ceiling features strategically integrated lighting – custom designed lighting features ribbon-like elements to guide shoppers through the building while allowing them to acclimatize as they cross over the various sections of the shopping centre. In addition, feature mobiles and abundant natural light create interest and ambience.

The building celebrates artistic creativity while offering a wide selection of stores. Bulkheads are dark to integrate with the shopfronts in the shopping centre and serve to further highlight the artworks at the end of the mall. The developer contracted a curator to ensure diverse artistic representation, so we created galleries throughout the malls for unique graffiti and artwork installations by renowned South African artists. The artwork is placed high up in the distance, creating an interesting urban art element,” explains Lahaye.

The building features several subtle nuances and a sense of being inside the skeleton of the structure, which is emphasized by rib-like timber features overhead. “We liked the idea of showing the structure of the building in a neat and clean way,” explains Lahaye.

The colour palette, along with the changing patterned floor design, includes references to sunsets, the sky, and forests at the promotional courts. The tiling patterns are intricate and were inspired by woven baskets and rocks. To avoid cutting tiles, patterns were pixelated.

Angular shapes and distinctive stone-coloured flooring designs echo the renowned rock formations of the Rustenburg area. The ablution facilities feature warm timber and stones, while black tiles provide added texture. In the lounge area, patterned high-gloss metropole tiles provide a tactile and comfortable space to rest.

The design ensures that Rustenburg Mall is a family-friendly space where shoppers can escape the searing heat in the area.

The Marketplace

The Marketplace is a multi-functional, central entertainment area and the perfect spot for socialising. “Having its own entrance uniquely formalises activities for a rich, tactile, and unified experience. The Marketplace design brings people together into a flexible gathering place that is dynamic yet celebrates creativity and bespoke offerings,” says Lahaye.

Several full-sized Acacia trees take pride of place in the vibrant area, creating a physical tree canopy indoors. A massive LED TV screen adds to the audio-visual entertainment offering. The Marketplace offers pop-up stores, giant chess board, two different children’s play areas and communal dining area to serve the nearby restaurants and take-away eateries. Wifi is available at Rustenburg Mall and a wifi -enabled area is incorporated in The Marketplace.

Flexibility in The Marketplace was achieved by incorporating kiosks and tuk-tuks, bringing together bespoke, craft-like offerings with more mainstream food offerings. A service spine was created throughout The Marketplace for drainage, as well as for water and electrical connections. The design includes ribs located every 5 metres to connect into this spine.

A glimpse into the future of retail

As leaders in retail architectural design, MDS Architecture is at the forefront of trends. Lahaye says that several emerging trends in retail design are showcased at Rustenburg Mall. Online shopping has increased with the emergence of Covid-19, so greater storage areas have been incorporated in the design for retailers. “Function and fun both have a role in the retail design of the future. But making them work together requires flexibility – the more flexible the design is, the more easily you can adapt to what will happens in the world. Outdoor lifestyle offerings are increasingly important to facilitate social interaction, and accessibility is key,” he says.

In addition to great shopping variety, easy access and a unique sensory experience, it seems shoppers at Rustenburg Mall are also getting glimpses of the future of retail.

Rustenburg Mall in numbers

  • Size: 40,000 m2 which is about the size of 8 soccer fields
  • Bricks: 18 km of bricks laid end-to-end. At the height of construction, 80,000 bricks were laid per day
  • Concrete used: enough to fill 4 large swimming pools
  • Steel used: equivalent to the weight of 180 elephants
  • Tiles: over 94,000 tiles laid


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