Joburg’s Trendy Melville Neighborhood Gets ‘27 Boxes Mall

A “shopping mall” constructed entirely out of shipping containers is nearing completion in Johannesburg. The architectural design is called 27 Boxes, because each container is 27 square meters. It is a first for Africa, and is modeled on similar projects in London, Paris and Christchurch.

Construction workers add finishing touches to the 27 Boxes project in the creative Johannesburg suburb of Melville.

Its creator is Citiq Group structural engineer and architect, Arthur Blake.

“We had extremely limited funds. It continued to rain. As we went [dug] down, we got rock, which delayed the project. We’ve never done a retail development and this one took me by surprise at how long it would actually take,” explained Blake.

Blake said he did not want to build just another shopping mall, of which the city has plenty. “They’ve got no character; they’re just brick buildings,” he said.


Book your seat here!

He wanted to do “something different” at the site, something he’d never before attempted: to construct an affordable shopping space entirely from shipping containers.


The recycled material is significantly cheaper to build with than conventional steel, brick and mortar. This project cost about $2.5 million (R32 million) as opposed to $3.5 million (R45 million) for a traditional build.

But, from the outset, said Blake, there were plenty of skeptics. “People just said containers are shacks on steroids,” he recalled.

Mandy Shave, 27 Boxes marketing manager, at the site of the unique development in Johannesburg, S. Africa, June 2015 (Darren Taylor/VOA).

One of the doubters was Blake’s colleague, project marketing manager Mandy Shave. “I thought: Shipping containers? Running a mall within shipping containers, how’s it going to work? How are they going to fit?” she speculated.

But Blake’s vision of completing the development for Melville’s “dreamers and artists,” as he calls his soon-to-be tenants, wouldn’t die. “This unique opportunity just started developing in my mind, that we could create a space for these guys. Simultaneously, we could develop the park into a very artisanal zone,” he said.

Shave said about 100 containers will be rented to people selling products you won’t easily find at a mall packed with franchise stores: From craft beer to Philly cheese steaks and wood-fired bread, to handmade jewelry and clothing.

“We’ve done a very good job,” she stated. “To make sure that we have a very good mix of people, that it’s people who’ve got high-end, beautiful quality products [to sell]. There’s a strong focus on making sure it is artists, and then giving them an opportunity to open a store.”

A cheaper alternative to renters

On average, the containers will cost about $400 a month to rent, much cheaper than stores in the big malls, which can easily cost 10 times more.

This has made it possible for people like Sian Mylroie to be one of 27 Boxes’ first tenants. “I’m going to be opening a nursery; I’m going to be mostly selling veggies and herbs, and hopefully be selling fresh veggies and herbs to the little restaurants that are opening [here] as well so that they can all keep organic and fresh,” Mylroie explained.

Shave said 27 Boxes, with its many open spaces, will be one of the most environmentally friendly shopping areas ever in South Africa.

“The green aspect of using a shipping container is what is also attracting a lot of people to go, ‘Wow! This is so different; I didn’t realize you could do this with a shipping container,’” she said.

Blake said several internationally renowned architects have congratulated him on what he describes as his “dream project,” and 27 Boxes is set to open within a few weeks.

Source: voanews

Book your seat to attend the Green Building Conference at Sustainability Week in June

Follow Alive2Green on Social Media

TwitterFacebookLinkedInGoogle +

Recently Published


How to choose the best real estate agent when buying your first home

Buying your first home is a daunting process in itself, which is why ...

Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 10.14.22 AM

Global water insecurity calls for water infrastructure maintenance

The growing funding gap to keep up with the rehabilitation, operation ...

Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 10.02.53 AM

Regreening the planet could cut as much carbon as halting oil use – report

Natural solutions such as tree planting, protecting peatlands and ...


Johannesburg’s Executive Mayor Herman Mashaba to address African Real Estate & Infrastructure Summit in Sandton on 25 October

“Rejuvenation of the inner city a key priority for the new ...


Laminated timber beams to comply with regulations

The Institute for Timber Construction South Africa (ITC-SA), South ...


Organic waste – What to do?

Have you ever felt frustrated with the food waste that you throw ...


Meet the Green Building Convention 2017 keynote speakers

This year, we have included speed networking stations at the GBCSA ...


Streetlights Schools: Wellness In Education

In keeping with sustainable school design and child mental health ...


Growthpoint powers innovation with its NWU Solar Car team sponsorship

Pushing the boundaries of what is possible for alternative energy and ...