Opera House inspired award-winner
Builders first started work on constructing the Ashford Designer Outlet in 1996, with the centre opening for business in March 2000.
It was designed by the Lord Richard Rogers of Rogers Stirk Harbour and Partners, who also designed the Lloyd’s building and Millennium Dome in London.
The engineering firm behind the project was Buro Happold, which specialises in tensile structures and was also responsible for the Sydney Opera House – thought to be the inspiration for the design.
Since it was named Retail Destination of the Year 2001 by readers of Retail Week magazine, the Ashford Designer Outlet has gone on to win numerous design awards.
The highest point of the structure is 324m (1,063ft) and the entire centre cost £21 million to build.
It has been attracting more than 2.8 million visitors each year since 2009.
Cllr Gerry Clarkson, Ashford Borough Council leader, first hinted at plans to expand the shopping centre in August 2013.
He revealed the ambitious plans to double the size of the outlet, adding around 100,000 sq ft, to the current 185,000 sq ft of retail space.
A full planning application for the extension was given the green light by councillors in September 2015, when members voted overwhelmingly in support of the proposals.
It will be the first extension to the centre and the multimillionpound development will add a further 38 shops to the 80 cu there.
The centre currently employs more than 1,000 people and the expansion is set to create a further 500 jobs, plus 170 construction staff who will work on the build.
It is hoped the extension will be complete in 2018.
Ashford Outlet was designed by Lord Richard Rogers, right, designer of the Millenium Dome; engineering firm Buro Happold were also responsible for the Sydney Opera House – thought to be the inspiration for the shopping centre’s look