Urban shopping malls are re-emerging and adapting as part of new urban developments. In a city famed for its street life, the new Oculus development on the World Trade Centre site in New York City successfully acts as a draw for tourists and as a transit point for the tens of thousands of daily commuters. This formulaic and generic shopping concept brings the mall out of suburbia and into the heart of the city. However, Michael Sorkin, professor of architecture at City College of New York, points out that the development is “virtually indistinguishable from Dubai duty-free”.
Stefan Al points to other cities, such as San Li Tun, an area in Beijing’s central business district, that have expanded the concept. This removes the architecture of the closed shopping mall and integrates outdoor public space within a plan that can grow organically, adapting to cultural change within the city. Architect Chris Law says, “we simply continued the urban pattern that has been around for hundreds of years”, mentioning medieval cities such as Sienna, where shops and food stalls lined thriving public space.
Restaurants, cafes and bars feature prominently in these urban shopping malls but what about fresh food shopping ? The US Project for Public Spaces aims to put communities back into the public space equation and has a focus on the role of public markets in supporting local food systems, economies and public health. This concept is being applied in the UK within major market redevelopments. Take for example, the 7 million pound redevelopment underway in Leicester, voted Britain’s best food market in 2015. The new food hall is part of a new vision for the market where re-developed public space will be used to link the market to the rest of the city. This is what appears to be missing in the new urban shopping malls, there is a renewed focus on public space, but the multinational offer does not reconnect people to fresh and healthy food. Keep reading, we will be looking at this.