RESEARCH has indicated that getting close to nature can boost our mental well-being and help relieve stress.
You would be surprised to know that it is quite possible to be in touch with nature without having to go to a forest reserve, park or beach.
Sunway Pyramid in Subang Jaya has amped up its mall experience for shoppers by going beyond functional shopping and offering an experiential trip.
If you have been hearing birds and crickets chirping, monkeys screaming and frogs croaking, do not be alarmed; there are no animals on the loose in the mall.
The escalators from CP7 to CP2 parking bays at the Orange Atrium have been turned into an “Oasis Garden”, with sounds of nature to accompany you when going up or down.
Artificial greenery surrounds the moving stairway while a four-screen LCD display is mounted on the wall at CP3 with an image of running water gushing over rocks.
On one side of the landing is a fountain with two benches for people to sit and take photos.
The cosy ambience of the garden transports you to another realm after a flurry of shopping activities.
The whole idea of the Oasis Garden was to create a pleasant transition for people walking from the parking bays to the retail space and vice versa, said Sunway Malls and Theme Parks chief executive officer H.C. Chan.
“The escalators were in a relatively harsh environment without air-conditioning. And a mall can be a very crowded place. The garden helps to change the feel and mood of the shoppers, allowing them to experience something soothing, refreshing and therapeutic,” he added.
Furthermore, Chan said that about two-thirds (or two million) of the mall’s monthly footfall enter through those escalators since it is the main thoroughfare.
So there was a need to ensure shoppers enjoyed their shopping experience.
Oasis Garden is a well-thought-out design, curated by Sunway University School of Arts associate dean and Performance and Media head Prof Matthew Sansom.
He is also an artist, composer and soundscape designer with 20 years of experience working with sound, exploring its relationship with the environment and human beings.
The garden was a way to mask unpleasant sounds like escalator mechanisms and people noise, using soundscape design to improve the quality of the environment.
“It also creates awareness of Malaysia’s biodiversity, and appreciation towards nature and environment,” Prof Sansom pointed out.
The garden’s experiential design mimics the sounds of a rainforest, starting with the birds chirping at CP7.
“It gets lesser as you descend, followed by monkey sounds, then crickets and water, and finally frogs at the landing before you head out into the mall.”
Interestingly, the sounds actually originate from 17 different species of birds, three species of monkeys, and two kinds of frogs.
To the naked ear, it would seem that the soundbytes of each animal were thrown into the mix.
Prof Sansom wanted to feature indigenous birds, so he researched the kind of feathered friends in Malaysia, including the oriental pied hornbill, white-rumped shama, large- tailed nightjar, black-naped oriole and common green magpie.
“The soundbytes of birds were taken from sound libraries while the frogs and crickets were from earlier recordings when I came to Malaysia in 2010 to actually record them,” he revealed.
To create an immersive sound experience for shoppers, Sansom said there are 14 speakers scattered around the escalators with each track put on a looping system.
However, the tracks are out of sync to sound natural.
“The composition is always changing, just like nature, otherwise they would sound predictable and on repeat.
“To sound right, I also had to work with an audio engineer and spend a long time fine-tuning every element to work as a whole,” he said.
The mall invested about RM250,000 on the Oasis Garden.
Moving forward, Chan hoped they could create more experiential designs within the mall as well as other Sunway malls – Sunway Putra Mall, Sunway Velocity Mall, Sunway Giza and Sunway Carnival Mall.
“In Sunway Pyramid, we also have the Paradise Garden in Lower Ground, Blue Atrium, and are currently studying the main entrance of the mall to see how we can execute something similar.
“It is becoming an art form – we want to translate a space into something people can enjoy and relax in, and make their visit to the mall delightful; otherwise, a mall is a mall.
“In line with the group’s vision, we will continue to innovate to enrich lives,” Chan concluded.