The 10 Largest Shopping Centres in the World

Increased consumption drives mega malls across the globe

Asia’s economic boom is reflected by the development of modern temples of consumerism. Nine out of ten of the biggest shopping centres in the world are now located in Asia. Much more than simply being opportunities for shopping, these centres are increasingly turning into amusement parks and lifestyle centres with shops attached. In February 2012, Emporis generated a ranking of the world’s largest shopping malls (by gross leasable area) and analysed current developments.

The original idea of the shopping mall was developed in the USA – the first one was built in Minneapolis in 1956. The economic boom in Asia resulted in increasing consumption the construction of mega malls. Nowadays, Asia has more shopping malls than the US; the two largest can be found in China.

The following comparison might help to illustrate the astounding dimension of these shopping centres: the second in the Top 10 list, the Golden Resources Mall, offers 557,419 m², which is about the size of 75 football pitches. But it’s not all rosy for all mega malls in Asia: the South China Mall, the world’s largest mall with a commercial area of 600,153 m², reports a high vacancy rate due to decreased customer frequency. It is known as a dead mall.

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Above: Bad planning for 1.1 billion: the new south China mall Dongguan

Successful mega malls are increasingly turning into lifestyle centres, serving as commercial space for a variety of businesses and but also as tourist attractions. Dubai Mall for example offers an ice rink and an aquarium on its area of 350,244 m². The Persian Gulf Complex will have an indoor amusement park, a prayer room and a helicopter landing pad.

About 54 million visitors came to Dubai Mall in 2011. Photograph: M. Merola / Emporis

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The aquarium at Dubai Mall is home to around 33,000 water animals, the tunnel underneath makes a bend of 270°. Photograph: The Dubai Mall / Emporis

Another strategy strives to unite architecture and environment. The 1 Utama Mall in Malaysia offers an indoor rainforest with koi basins for example and Southeast Asia’s largest roof garden can be found here. At CentralWorld in Thailand, you can watch sea lions swimming in the indoor salt water lake. In order to survive as a mega mall it has become popular to integrate offices and residential space in the centres, as can be seen in Cehavir Mall in Turkey.

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1 Utama Mall in Umata, Photograph: Nadia Shazrin Asari / Emporis

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Apart from 500 shops and 100 restaurants, CentralWorld in Bangkok provides Thailand’s only outdoor ice rink. Photograph: CentralWorld / Emporis

The discovery that consumer behaviour can be animated by social measures has changed the architecture of shopping malls. Especially the new lifestyle centres represent an effective way to motivate customers to buy and guarantee profits.

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SM City North EDSA in Quezon City, Philippines, Photograph: Clemzkie / Emporis

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With 430 shops on five stories, Mid Valley Mega Mall in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia is number 7 in the world ranking. Photograph: Robert Tan / Emporis

After 23 years of being number 1, West Edmonton Mall in Edmonton, Canada, is now number 10. Photograph: West Edmonton Mall / Emporis

Emporis is a provider of building data and construction projects; an Emporis Skyscraper Award is presented annually.