Located on land reclaimed from the Caspian Sea, Deniz Waterfront will be a 120,000m² entertainment, retail, leisure and dining destination over five floors. A ‘flame’ tower is the centrepiece of eight star-shaped wings inspired by Azerbaijan’s national emblem.

Chapman Taylor designed the original building as a congress centre in 2007, and now the building is being repurposed, keeping the same design, to include entertainment, leisure, F&B and retail facilities. Chapman Taylor’s London studio was appointed to provide the interior design services in 2016, with the complex on course to open in early 2019.
We talked to London Director Tim Carran about the scheme, in which he has been involved from the very start.

Tell us about the origins of the project.
The brief from the client to create a landmark development on the Caspian Sea which would serve a similar role to the Sydney Opera House in how it related to the waterfront – a sculptural form with a series of shell roofs which would reflect in the water and look impressive when illuminated at night. Chapman Taylor designed the building in 2007, with the present building realising that concept and design.

The project was put on hold for a few years, before resuming in 2014. We subsequently, and successfully, proposed an interior design concept for the building which thematically united the interior spaces with the exterior design, and that interior work is progressing very well. The exterior is now approaching completion, and it is very exciting to see Chapman Taylor’s concept being fully realised.

How did the design develop?
In design development, (Main Board Director) Chris Lanksbury and I drew upon the Azerbaijan national emblem, which is also used on the national flag – an eight-pointed star. The building was designed to be a national symbol itself. We realised, as the design process progressed, that, if we were going to create a symbolic building, we should take the country’s national emblem and create it as a physical building form. That design is what you see being realised today.
The original intention was for the building to be a congress centre, holding conventions, weddings and similar events. The eight ‘petals’ would house eight auditoriums, all converging on one central auditorium, so that the centre could hold several events simultaneously.

Why is the building being repurposed?
The client, and indeed the people of Baku, love the architectural statement of the building on the Caspian. However, in the years during which construction was delayed, a new, larger convention centre by Coop Himmelblau was commissioned next to the Zaha Hadid-designed Heydar Aliyev Centre – and there was thus a need for a new role for our building.
The client decided that the building should be repurposed in a way which added commercial value and decided that the building was ideal as a family entertainment and retail centre, and so it has become known as Daniz Mall.

What will the venue be used for?
It’s going to house a family-orientated day-out experience, including a number of exciting retail and leisure attractions. Baku doesn’t have much in the way of family entertainment destinations, so Caspian Waterfront will serve a much-needed role for the city and the surrounding region. The range of retail and leisure options on offer, particularly the world-class entertainment areas, will be very diverse and will create a very enjoyable environment for people of all generations. There will also be a lot of F&B provision, including outdoor restaurant terraces and a sky-bar, in which people can relax and look out at unrivalled views over the Caspian.

How has the development been received by the client and by the people of Azerbaijan?
Everyone is delighted to see the scheme, which is a complicated building design, coming to fruition. The Azeris are a very nationally proud people – it’s a young country – and they are inspired by the way in which such a prominent building designed for public use has been built to serve as a national icon. We are very happy that our design for the building has been so well received, and that it will be open for everyone to enjoy.