Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Henna's Article:

Henna Joronen

Alchemy of Building a Shopping Center – Critical Points of View To Formulating a Paradise

Alchemy of Building a Shopping Center – Critical Points of View To Formulating a Paradise written by Henna Joronen

1.Pounding a Mall
2. How architecture creates thinking - Ideology and model behind mass consumption
3.Architect as fascist, or is it him to blame?
4. I call them space invaders.

Alchemy of Building a Shopping Center is an article trying to define and understand the mental landscape, the body of profit architecture and meanings behind creating our consuming based architecture, which has overwhelmingly conquered the planet. Trying to understand its power and how this type of architecture is used to control us and our behavior, our thinking. Also my concern is what kind of public spaces within the frame of consuming are offered for us. How are we in them, how these spaces are and what they do.

1.Pounding a Mall
I was told that behind us was a supermarket being built. That is inside what is left of a cotton factory, which date back a hundred years or so. I was also told that in this little town called Pori, there are three shopping centers in one kilometer radius (not to mention supermarkets), so thinking to myself and others continuing, how is it possible. How is it possible for one to have customers for all of them, how is it possible to get a permission to tear apart the old factory walls for this kind of use, since it has been done (demolishing our heritage) in Finland since the 60's and seventies at least, bringing down our history. As a small country, as people wouldn't it be crucially important to preserve our memory?

Yes, I could see it, the construction site, and feel the pounding of concrete pillars getting hit into the ground. Such heavy duty raises questions. Walls of our classroom were trembling. One pound per second, I looked up the clock on the wall, like a heartbeat. Sweet metaphor, thousands of grey concrete stumps to hold it all together, boom. Chaka-boom isn't it heartbeat that synchronizes, resonates, comes to bring us enjoyment of music, or music of building. A simple monotonic beat, though. But when you listen to your own heart, the squeaking and bumping makes you feel nausea. This pounding irritated everybody and the thought of a new market was making me sick. Wondering this happening, we got a new perspective, when Yik Chum from Hong Kong told us that, she had worked in an office and listened to the same kind of sound every day for three years. Also that in Hong Kong this kind of sound is constant. She lived upstairs to a mall and it is very common in HK to build such high buildings, which contain every possible service one can possibly need in order to live there. Well, we were stunned. How small Finland seemed and how small it is. It looked like Hong Kong lives in different time, that is science fiction here in Pori.

To adapt this kind of progress probably is inevitable, one cannot live in hating it, but one can question. We are the ones they are for, right? Question mark is that I'm not sure. Users, the customers, owners of the premises, owners of the land, what is it to use a building? To build is a practical practice, daily sight in a city. Cities are being reconstructed, modeled for some purposes in a democratic or nondemocratic way to sustain our lives. At least in Finland attempt is to be as democratic as possible. Though it puzzled me to hear an architect once say that the system is too democratic, making the decition making avoid any experimental or bold solutions and in the end everybody mostly follows the same safe patterns. In Finland it is clear to see this since the old is being removed and cubes have invaded our land. It is difficult to find which democratic ways are in use when it comes to constructing, I have my doubts.

One approach to view this dilemma is to see who is building and what are the main reasons to construct. Quick look tells me behind my back a supermarket is getting started. Is there a demand for it? Who investigates the demand, it must have been calculated. Calculated how to do it, profit architecture? Profit architecture is to get the value out of us after having built the site. That is the only reason for such houses to exist, to exploit. In short fascism wrapped in a package with a smile and sold to us. So in this line of thought, it is not for us. Not just talking about the supermarket behind me, but of the genre of malls, supermarkets and shopping centers. There is plenty of reason for harsh critique. For some, it's a progress that cannot be stopped, that we live in capitalism to live we have to consume products that malls easily bring us cheaply. The pounding-like way, how malls are brought to us is one way to tell there is nothing ordinary citizens can do somehow. Companies building their empires are huge forces, what comes to capacity in funds, employees, connections, planning, they are getting their voice heard in ads etc. The whole idea of a mall is to be an ad and a container. Malls, as I see them, are shaped for storage, to have simple routine-like maneuvers practiced, to move with trollies, for the shopkeeper to bring in huge amounts of goods, to cash out, rip off as many people as possible in rows like in factory. Interesting article on the issue on www.thefunambulist.net # Weaponized architecture///Architecture for profits Optimization: The Supermarkets' layout (2012). Which sarcastically remarks the evil architect laughing at us when we think we are free.

2.How architecture creates thinking - Ideology and model behind mass consumption
To enjoy a shopping center there is entertainment: cinemas, cafes, restaurants, carousels, fountains, trees, glass ceilings, lighting, lots of it, interior design posing pretty or what happens to be in style, kind of cheap, mostly depending what is sold in the particular place. We can spend time there looking, buying, dreaming, seeing people. The main issue bothering me has been and is how this architecture influences us, our behavior, mental state and health, thinking, imagining.
How it involves, harasses, puzzles, disturbs, changes our attitudes or the way we see the world and ourselves. Or in contrary makes us feel good about ourselves giving inspiration, peace of mind, maybe healing and protection. I'm asking because pounding up structures like malls next to each other is a very impressive and aggressive act. Secondly to lure thousands of people to consume is another gigantic happening, which like chain reaction has started movements like no other. I examine the phenomenon as a pedestrian, biker, careful consumer, artist and a Finn. Also, because I'm concerned.

An interesting case began when in the 1950s scientist Jonas Salk was working on polio in the basement of a Pittsburgh laboratory. Work was not proceeding. He left to Italy to rest in a monastery. After the breakthrough, which led to the vaccine for polio he felt that the monastery had deeply effected him as a place and as a building. He invited architect Louis Kahn to design The Salk institute in La Jolla, in California hoping other scientists would benefit serene surroundings. Since then in Salk there has been research on how our surroundings affect feelings and behavior. "In the current issue of Scientific American Mind, Emily Anthes describes how ceiling height, colors and other design factors influence attention and creativity. Scientists are just beginning to address these questions, in part by studying changes in brain activity as subjects make their way through virtual reality rooms." "Mose Bar, a neuroscientist, speculates that our brains are hard-wired to avoid sharp angles because we read them as dangerous." This Is Your Brain On Architecture, Michael Cannell, www.fastcompany.com.

What do these researches have to give to building new? What comes to being efficient at the place of work and how workers enjoy working there has a lot of value for employer. Same goes with were you live. What we see and how we react to it. Do monotonous dull city architecture depress us, for example. Thing I wonder is Do these surveys create new points of views or state the obvious just giving a scientific value, create science fiction, New Age bumbo jumbo or going back to something that we are losing or have lost in terms of architecture? Possibly all that.

3.Architect as fascist, or is it him to blame?
In Finland we have a small scale and a short history with profit architecture, comparing for instance to the United States. In the US there are already generations who go and see malls of their childhood, often abandoned huge and empty with parking lots, to remember what it was like then, how it was better. Would you be nostalgic for a mall? Maybe I would. For example website www.deadmalls.com is filled with pictures of abandoned malls. Companies owning these not-in-use buildings don't want this kind of publicity, but the site still exists and it is also quite huge and has a fun side to it. Documentaries like Malls R us from year 2008 by a Canadian Helene Klodawsky (trailer in youtube) give a good picture of the involvement of malls to peoples lives. Of people that have spent a lot of their leisure time in malls and around them. The idea of a mall has become something else than what I think of it. Has the bad profit architecture eventually come up with the same as the bad television, people love both, but feel guilty for using them. As I see youngsters in Finland using mall parking spaces to meet friends, skateboard, bike, spray graffiti, have fun etc., I wonder is it so because they don't have any or many other places to go to do these things. Conclusion to this is that options are given and one has to make the best of them, or find and create alternatives.

What makes malls problematic as public spaces is that they are privately owned. What one owns one also controls. "By designing this space as an interior area accessible by definite entrances and supervised by dozens of video cameras and sensors, corporations were able to minimize the number of undesirables that were allowed in “their public space”. The design is also oriented in order to compose a whole interior fantastic world that is supposed to be perceived as better than the outside reality. This world is safe, clean, warm, entertaining and attractive; it is always a disappointment to leave it for the consumer who forgot reality. The main characteristic of capitalist design is to leave nothing to chance. Indeed chance provokes uncertainty and uncertainty provides an illegibility that can be unproductive for Capitalism." www.thefunambulist.net # POLITICS///Capitalism's Architecture.

According to this quote, the mental landscape hyper-controlled public spaces create is oppressive, paranoid and delusional. Other mental emotional image given is the feeling that consumer is in charge and cared for, nurtured and given the best chances and goods available. The customer can feel enjoyment, pleasure of consuming. "The unreliable, possibly dangerous group of people is kept outside. The same article Capitalism's Architecture tells that the contemporary mall is said to have been invented by The Austrian-American Victor Gruen in the 1950's. It is supposed that it was him who thought of the pure capitalist architecture as an element of urbanism. Firstly shopping malls were intended for the middle class as the equivalent of old European city centers, a pedestrian place of gathering and activity. Doing it differently the United States placed this new kind of public space within the framework of privatized supervision, security and control." www.thefunambulist.net # POLITICS///Capitalism's Architecture. This is the insides of a mall in short. How about the shells around, cubes as I call them? Still controlled by cameras, even the thrashes behind are watched, locked up.

4.I call them space invaders.
There is a field, wasteland or a meadow of some kind, bushes and it's been there like that for a longer period of time surrounded by small scale shops and supermarkets. Like in Tampere where I live, there is Lielahti which is one part of the town where many malls are situated and are all offering a bit different varieties of goods, but none of them is for spending time, dwelling. Such malls are in the center. Shopping centers are booming in Finland. Is it hysteric or just convenient? Interestingly the biggest malls are not the biggest sellers according to the statistics in wikipedia on shopping centers in Finland, 20 biggest shopping centers, 2010. On the website of the Finnish Council of Shopping Centers says that a successful shopping center is the pounding heart of a community and gives a definition: shopping center consists of a commercial building in which retail outlets and services open inwards onto a walkway or concourse. The gross leasable area is generally at least 5,000 sq. m. Shopping centers have at least 10 retail outlets. A mall has one or more anchor tenants and a number of key traders as well as other retailers and services. The services may be either commercial or public. A single trader may not exceed 50% of the total commercial space. Shopping centers have joint management and marketing. www.kauppakeskusyhdistys.fi. Though year 2012 yle.fi reported a decline in building shopping centers in Finland in the next few years.

Finnish real estate company Citycon is a pro-active owner and long-term developer of it's properties. It is a major owner and builder of Shopping centers in Finland, elsewhere in Scandinavia and in the Baltic. They say on their website they take account of environmental aspects and well-being of the areas surroundings of its retail properties, which provides solid foundations for the company's success and growth in the future. www.citycon.fi. In the light of having seen and visited many shopping centers anywhere in Finland and my skepticism I very much would like to see one of their properties to be what they claim. Very often those interested in constructing shopping centers are multinational companies to whose projects investors can invest in.

But there are good news too as Rautalampi municipality has taken chance and is looking for funders to build wooden 1000 square meter shopping center, which would focus on locally produced goods such as local food and organic food. www.investinfinland.fi/articles/news (2012). This is a soon hopefully to become a trend, because so far in Finland the repetition of the same models is a major fault and worry. Monotonous landscape of blank straight forms, blank colors, cubes with gigantic are ads rising up to the sky in favor of vast amount of traffic, exploitative industries and mass consumption. Made consuming look easy and light and problems like abuse of employees seem far away.

There are projects that have designed different kinds of malls, for example for a mall to create it’s own energy and experimenting new kinds of appearances. It is called climate protection supermarket and one is located in Graz Austria. Also designers have had emphasis on using sustainable materials and environmentally friendly economical construction to reduce the life-cycle cost of buildings. www.archdaily.com. Critics assume such projects to be only local and exist only to polish the surface of the big players in the industry. One way or the other there definitely is a demand and hurry to develop new ways of consuming and constructing.

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