The purpose of this discussion is to investigate and present the history and development of the architectural design of London’s shopping centres from Brent Cross to Westfield including other malls like Wood Green, between 1976-2012. …
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This paper discusses that from the perspective of history of art and visual design, the evolution from commercial marketing areas and shopping centres to departmental stores, supermarkets, malls and mega malls, are significant developments since 1976 in Britain. During the time Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister, 1979-1990, a wide policy of privatization resulted in the establishment of urban development corporations. Control over urban development was seized from local government. This resulted in the widespread privatisation of public space such as the development of shopping centres or malls. According to McGuigan, “such privatisation of public space erodes urbanity and social cohesion”. During the last few decades, increasing private spaces in public areas have been identified; most are owned by private individuals, organisations and financial institutions; while government-owned space is considered as ‘public’. Privatisation in the public domain is identified in various cases including the emergence of multipurpose shopping centres. Thus, one aspect of privatisation is known as Malling, which reshapes the structure of cities. London’s public spaces and mega shopping malls like Brent Cross in the north-west, Wood Green in the north and Westfield in west London focus on the multidimensional functions that mall culture offers to its clientele. Private developers are aiming to create miniature cities with high quality community space. An extensive variety of shops, services and car parks are provided in these modern interpretations of the High Street. Since they require large areas, they are usually located on the outer suburbs of the city (Grolle 7). Components of the built environment are related to abstract concepts, social relations or ideologies through culturally determined systems of association. They combine to communicate social meaning. The built environment first represents its function, expressing its practical purpose. Thus, the shopping centre constructed in a wide range of styles “announces itself through its location and its conventional form as a palace of consumption” (Goss 36). Even the most technologically limited architectural solutions give symbolic expression. The built environment is full of meaning with various nuances; it serves its main objective and also extends beyond its primary function. Thesis Statement: The purpose of this dissertation is to investigate the history and development of the architectural design of London’s shopping centres from Brent Cross to Westfield including other malls like Wood Green, between 1976-2012. British mall culture’s roots in the United States will be identified. The transformations in visual design in malls and social spaces will be examined; and the impact of globalisation, consumerism, fashions, branding, and new product versions will be determined. ADVANCES IN THE DESIGN OF SHOPPING CENTRES AND SOCIAL SPACES FROM BRENT CROSS TO WESTFIELD: 1976 – 2012 Shopping is the most important contemporary social activity, and is mostly carried out in the shopping centre. Developers and designers of the retail built environment exploit the significance of the space to enhance consumption and subsequently ensure the realization of retail profits. They strive to provide other purposes for the shopping centre’s existence, “manipulate shoppers’ behaviour through the configuration of space, and consciously design a symbolic landscape that induces associative moods and nature in the shopper” (Goss 18). By examining these strategies, it will be possible to gain an understanding of how the retail environment works. “Brent Cross Shopping Centre and Wood Green Shopping City are both a product of the expansion and large scale investment that occurred in London during the 1970s”
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