The Starhill: A Renovation Awakes the Role Malls Play in City Memory
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
- 181, Jln Bukit Bintang, Bukit Bintang, 55100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
For the practice’s first major project in South East Asia, Kokaistudios undertook an interior and exterior redesign and renovation of The Starhill shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur, right in the heart of KL’s famous shopping belt Bukit Bintang. By injecting welcomed daylight into the interior space and further diversifying its functional mix, the iconic mall has been rejuvenated and opened-up for a new chapter.
In Malaysia, Kokaistudios applied their signature approach of renovation to link an iconic shopping mall more closely to its urban surroundings. For more than twenty years, Starhill Gallery in the Bukit Bintang shopping belt of Kuala Lumpur has attracted visitors thanks to its distinct mix of functions: the 28,500sqm mall is also home to a luxury hotel JW Marriott Kuala Lumpur, previously confined to a connected tower. By reappropriating a portion of the venue’s footprint to create a new public space in the city, and building on the mall’s reputation for luxury lifestyle experiences, Kokaistudios delivers a timely update to Starhill Gallery, now rebranded as The Starhill – Home of The Tastemakers, all the while maintaining and preserving its unmistakable visual identity.
As part of The Starhill’s legacy and relationship with its surroundings, the development had once resulted in interiors that lacked the impact of the dynamic exterior architecture. In addition to creating a unified design language inside the mall, Kokaistudios sought to open up the space to the city beyond, as well as build on the mall’s existing mixed-use approach through palpable lifestyle elements. Injecting natural light into the mall was also a priority, achieved by restoring a previously concealed skylight.
The Starhill sits at the convergence of two main thoroughfares – Jalan Bukit Bintang and Jalan Gading. In order to weave the mall more closely into its urban fabric, Kokaistudios applied distinct approaches to its north and west-facing sides, while preserving its striking visual identity. The lower part of the mall’s previously all-encompassing angular shell has been removed, making the mall’s luxury anchor tenants visible from the Jalan Bukit Bintang side. Meanwhile, street-facing F&B outlets on the western side lend themselves to the foot traffic on the narrow pathway of Jalan Gading. Eateries are fronted by their own glass-clad pavilion, entrance, stepped terraces, and inviting outdoor seating to blur boundaries between inside and out and lend porosity to the previously enclosed mall. At the end of the steps Kokaistudios also redesigned the piazza and the main entrance to the basement dining destination, namely The Starhill Dining.
The transformation incorporates the architectural legacy of the mall’s iconic jagged facade, which has been retained at its upper levels. Reminiscent of a crown, it is most dramatic at The Starhill’s main entrance which is located at the meeting point of Jalan Bukit Bintang and Jalan Gading. Here, the mall’s footprint has been reduced in order to reclaim and renew an attractive piazza, further blurring boundaries between public and private. A newly installed terrace positioned directly above the entrance overlooks this buzzling public space, opening up new city views.
Inside, strategic architectural interventions allow visitors to immediately read the space and its newly consolidated levels. At the mall’s primary entrance, an open space for pop-up shops is flanked by escalators transporting shoppers to the upper ground floor and delivering views into both spaces. To the right of the airy entrance foyer is an additional escalator connecting directly to a first floor open-concept space. Envisaged as a dedicated lifestyle area, it is currently home to the iconic lifestyle bookstore - Eslite Spectrum.
Building on The Starhill’s established lifestyle and mixed-use identity, its hotel footprint has been expanded from a pre-existing tower to incorporate an additional three floors of mall space. In creating a diverse functional mix, the intervention transforms the light-filled atrium thanks to inward-facing hotel room windows. An unexpected feature for hotel guests and shoppers alike, the smart window boxes evoke a city within a city, further blurring boundaries between inside and out. Windows overlook a bridge connecting the two sides of the atrium, allowing visitors to thoroughly read the space from top to bottom, and left to right.
Central to Kokaistudios’ vision for The Starhill was bringing natural light into this previously enclosed space. Directly inspired by the airy elegance of conservatories, a skylight has been re-opened up in the mall’s domed ceiling, bringing welcomed daylight into the space. This tropical glasshouse theme is extended throughout the mall by way of green walls, floral designs in restroom areas, and plentiful verdant plants.
To allow for additional vertical circulation and boost visibility across floors, the circular atrium near to the hotel’s main entrance has been redesigned. Interior materials have also been selected for their associations of comfort, and in particular, hospitality to connect with the integrated hotel. They include stone floors, natural wood effect coverings, rough plasters and refined brass details.
The renovation of The Starhill marks Kokaistudios’ first major project in South East Asia. Working within the framework of the architectural layers that came before was an opportunity to consider the role iconic buildings play in the memory of a city. In the famous shopping belt Bukit Bintang, The Starhill’s distinctive ‘crown’ not only remains an important landmark, preserving the structure also represents a sustainable approach to renovation. Now with an enhanced customer mix thanks to the integrated hotel, as well as a dedicated first floor lifestyle concept space, this bright, airy, and above all, open shopping mall continues to impress in Kuala Lumpur as a must-visit destination for locals and tourist alike.
Project Name: The Starhill
Site: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Service Scope: Architecture Renovation + Interior Design
GFA: 28,500 sqm
Design Company: Kokaistudios
Chief Architects: Andrea Destefanis, Filippo Gabbiani
Architecture Design Director: Pietro Peyron
Architecture Design Team: Muyun Zhao, Marta Pineiro, Shuxian Peng, Andrea Antonucci
Interior Design Director: Rake Wang
Interior Design Team: Muyun Zhao, Chang Liu, Jiaqi Li, Sara Zhang, Wenye Zhu
Photography: David Yeow
Text: Frances Arnold
Media Contact: Jacqueline Chiang
Email: [email protected]