Saturday, April 16, 2011

Shopping mall contrast

My mother got two free tickets for the Primavera Art Fair at Ahoy in Rotterdam. So we went to take a look. The experience was unique and surreal - especially when seen in it's spatial context. Two shopping malls connected by destroyed urban space.

Recognizable subjects - easy on the eyes and mind.
Art photographs by the famous Dutch photographer Erwin Olaf .
 The art fair specializes in expensive art in the "hotel lobby" style. Easy impressionism, simple expressionism, elegant abstraction. The style you find in stores selling upper-middle class furniture. Very inoffensive. I would never buy it - even if I had the money. The visitors were upper-middle class of the "I drive a vintage car" category. Couples between 50 and 60 years of age, men in leisure suits with stylish wives. I liked the antique wooden boxes and the Czech glass art - honest workmanship worth the money.

As you exit this warm cultural bath you are thrown in a cold shower of modernistic city design. The Zuiderparkweg and the Vaanweg are busy roads connecting Rotterdam to the highway. And they connect the Ahoy fairgrounds to the huge Zuidplein shopping centre. No effort has been spared to make the landscape as unattractive as possible. Visions of Northern Italy around Milan.

This could be Utrecht - Hoog Catharijne shopping mall.
This could be Berlin - Alexa shopping mall.
The Zuidplein mall is one of the largest indoor shopping centres in the Netherlands. With a surface area of 55,000 square meters, this is the main shopping centre for the South of Rotterdam and the municipalities on the southern edge of Rotterdam. In 2004, the mall had about 150 shops. The shopping centre attracts approximately 10 million visitors per year.

Still it looks like any other shopping center. There is no sense of locality. It could be anywhere. There is just a persistent negative aura that distinguishes it from other malls:
  • Through strenuous efforts of the municipality, the police, the transport company RET, monitoring services and shop owners from 2006 onwards have made it the safest shopping centre in the Netherlands. It is the only mall with a 3-star score for safety. Nevertheless feelings of insecurity remain and are caused by the metro and bus stations and by the stray youths from the surrounding poor area who hang around in the mall. In March 2007 a 20-year-old boy was shot dead in the metro station. 

But aren't all shopping malls sinister and threatening? Even if they sell expensive art.

Zuidplein - Wikipedia
Zuidplein - official website
Zuidplein - Google maps

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