Boardwalk Mall Brings a New Experience to Gqeberha


Designed by MDS Architecture, the first phase of Boardwalk Mall opened in March 2022 with a variety of entertainment options and several tenants, who traded while the second phase was being completed. Following its grand opening on 22 September 2022, the Boardwalk Mall precinct takes pride of place as a prominent landmark just a few metres from the Blue Flag-awarded Hobie Beach in Gqeberha.

DMS Boardwalk Aerial 23 09 2022 84A0209 Copy 1

MDS Architecture partner, Pierre Lahaye, says that Boardwalk Mall is an important part of the overall vision for the precinct, linking with the Sun International Boardwalk Casino and the Boardwalk Hotel. The owners of the Boardwalk precinct are Sun International and Flanagan & Gerard – experienced leisure operators combined with developers with a proven track record in retail development and management. Significant infrastructure and road upgrades formed part of the development and the Boardwalk has been a catalyst for upgrades elsewhere in the Summerstrand area. A residential development, for instance, is under construction. Its architecture is complementary to the Boardwalk precinct and it has pedestrianised access to the area.

Contemporary interpretation

“Our design is cognizant of integrating into the existing architecture and creating a streetscape that has developed over time. There are several pedestrian access points to the building and to the rest of the new offerings which serve to integrate the precinct into the urban landscape. It is quite something to be able to step out onto the beautiful beachfront promenade directly from the shopping centre,” says Lahaye.

The contemporary interpretation was achieved with elements like the shape of the roofs and an aesthetic of a refurbished dockside building. The mall is curved, evoking waves, and encouraging further exploration beyond what is immediately visible. The parking area was redeveloped and now offers over 1 000 parking bays, as well as a dedicated taxi drop-off and pick-up zone.

Industrial chic elements include exposed structural details and tactile materials in the interior. Sculptural elements were introduced to celebrate the ocean, including boat-shaped origami elements which were used as light fittings. The promotional court features a ceiling pattern reminiscent of a giant compass. The bathrooms, which Lahaye says are an important aspect of retail design, are tactile, featuring timber finishes for a contemporary nautical feel.

“All these elements combine with metalwork, fabrication and illumination to both welcome and entice visitors to explore Boardwalk Mall.”

The Sunpark Events Arena

One of the unique attractions of the development is the multi-functional Sunpark arena at the heart of the precinct. The 2 500m2 open arena includes a large screen, a landscaped children’s play area and access for the transportation of equipment for large events. Activities spill off the edges of the Sunpark, with several restaurants overlooking the beach and enjoying access the open arena.

The Sunpark provides a ‘wow-factor’ for visitors, one that MDS Architecture celebrates by ensuring the broader precinct and Sunpark are visible from inside the shopping centre. Large windows supplement natural light from clerestory windows, but they also offer views of what’s on offer in the broader Boardwalk precinct.

There are several events on the cards for Sunpark in 2023, including serving as a fan park for the 2023 Rugby World Cup and the Sunpark complements diverse events and conferences hosted by Sun International in the ICC throughout the year.

Supporting local talent and respecting the environment

The work of local artists is featured at Boardwalk Mall in the public passages and offices, including street art murals with distinctly recognisable elements typical of the region.

Says Lahaye, “The inclusion of local artists is a great way to ensure that the building has context and to build its reputation as a place by the people of Gqeberha for the people of Gqeberha.”

In addition, good environmental principles have been deployed with a view to continuously building up to carbon-neutral developments. Landscaping from the original scheme has been reclaimed, with trees being replanted which had been growing for over a year before the grand opening.

MDS Boardwalk 22 Sept 2022 pan Premier opening in main covered area 1

A new node for flexible gathering

Flexibility is an important design consideration, one which Lahaye says has become more pronounced since the pandemic. “Designed spaces need to be adaptable so that if plans or circumstances change, the design allows for multiple uses and some agility,” he says.

The Boardwalk Mall precinct is serving as somewhat of a new town centre for the area. With a direct link to the Nelson Mandela university campus, Summerstrand’s student population has easy pedestrian access to entertainment and shopping.

Boardwalk Mall looks set to continue having a positive impact on local education and art, as well as creating safe and welcoming connections for everyone who lives, works, plays, and learns in its immediate surroundings.


Client: Sun International and Flanagan & Gerard

Architect: MDS Architecture

Quantity Surveyor: Aeqium Quantity Surveyors        

Structural and Civil Engineer: L&S Consulting Engineers                             

Electrical Engineer: RWP Consulting Engineers    

Mechanical Engineers: GPCE Consulting Engineers   

Fire Consultant: SFT Consulting Engineers  

Wet Services Consultant: WFP Consulting Engineers               

Main Contractor: WBHO

Photography: Barry Goldman

MDS Architecture


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