Halifax — It has been two weeks today since a tornado touched down at approximately 2:24 a.m. in the middle of the Halifax Shopping Centre, sending the mall’s contents into seeming disarray.
“Thank god the janitorial staff had all gone home by that point,” said HSC building logistics manager Darren MacPatridge. “When we first arrived Saturday morning, we thought the mall would have to be closed for weeks, if not months, while we repaired the damage. Then I got the call.”
MacPatridge received a phone call from a representative of the Athenaeum in Chicago, Ill., informing him that the mall had just won the International Architectural Award for its innovative, open-concept merging of a chain book store and an electronics supplier. “I guessed he was talking about how all the books and whatnot from Coles got blown straight in through the doors of the Apple Store, but I thought it was a prank at first,” explained MacPatridge. “Then the award arrived by Purolator the next day. It’s a nice golden sphere sitting on an oak plaque — I still got it at home next to my fishing trophies.”
The store has continued to garner accolades throughout the architecture world, from winning a Governor-General Award to being featured on the cover of the Journal of the British Institute of Royal Architects.
“It’s really helped our business,” Coles regional manager Hilary Swope explained. “Before the tornado, our mall storefront location only made 100, maybe 150 point-of-sale transactions on a daily basis. In the first 2 weeks since we’ve merged with the Apple Store, we’ve had 60,000 people come check out our selection on their way to look at iPads and computers.
“Honestly, it’s just heartening to see people get so excited about reading.”
The merged store has also won praise for its innovative approach to green environmental design. “The massive hole in our ceiling where the twister touched down provides ambient heat in the summer, cutting down our reliance on fossil fuel energy,” explained Apple Genius Bar team lead Einas al-Fayed. “Plus, the hole allows the Starbucks that got blown through our north-facing wall to collect rainwater to recycle in their coffee. We even tossed a couple of deck chairs up there, so our customers can use it as a rooftop patio. We’ve become a real central hub.”
While most Halifax residents are overjoyed to have all of the things they love — coffee, consumer electronics, socializing and sleek interior design — combined with books, there have been a few patrons grumbling about the change. “I was in last Wednesday and just wanted to see if I could find a book for an essay I’m writing on principles of symmetry in classical design,” said Dalhousie University student Victor Murdoch, “but I couldn’t concentrate to find a good one because of all the noise from people ordering macchiatos and playing Angry Birds.
“I asked somebody at the Genius Bar if they could help me find a book and he just laughed and told me, ‘Hey, kid, this isn’t a library.'”
Representatives from the Halifax Shopping Centre will find out next Tuesday at a gala ceremony in Toronto whether the Apple Store/Coles will walk away with the Urban Design Award from the Royal Architecture Institute of Canada. Its main competition is considered to be the Best Buy in Dartmouth Crossing, which was left with a rectangular shipping container teetering precariously on its rooftop ledge following a massive spring flood, which was deemed “a vital centre of learning and culture” by Architecture Weekly magazine.