INDA 2541411: Architectural Design IV / Fall 2012 /
Carl Fredrik Valdemar Hellberg. AA dip(hons) RIBA II
Tuesdays and Fridays 13:00-16:30

Experience Driven Architecture of
New Underground Shopping Malls

 “We are the architects of these events”. From F+A ARCHITECTS website 2012

"Not only is shopping melting into everything, but everything is melting into shopping." 
Sze Tsung Leong The Harvard Guide to Shopping, 2001

Infinite, disorienting, sparkling, desirable, revolting, impossible to ignore, yet impossible to understand, the artificial environments of shopping malls are here to stay. Some of them exciting, most of them boring and ugly, as a typology, full of potential.

Together we will explore and revive design approaches driven by experience and perception. The challenge for the studio is to design environments in the form of shopping complexes of complete experience underground.  Through a series of rigorous case studies and frantic experimentation you will design an experiential simulator where experiences can be tested in one to one. For this we will use both digital tools such as projectors and sound systems as well as physical constructions in order to manifest a sensation of a visceral and spatial experience.
Our site will be underground. Many cities that have the right geological and climatic conditions have deployed this method for both commercial and practical purposes. We will approach this condition as the ultimate beginning for a new architecture of experience, Visceral Intricacy. We will work globally where the right circumstances for our underground projects and study some of the most extreme underground shopping complexes such as Réso in Montreal and Path in Toronto. We will journey to the new land of extravagance and commercial controversy of Dubai where plans for a new underground city is underway. In the dunes of the Emirates we will also see the largest mall in the world, Mall of Dubai as well as the largest underground water theme park.

What we call shopping malls can now be found in practically every urban fabric. Train stations and airports, universities, hospitals, and even military bases and temples are receiving the contagion of shopping at increasing rates. No one is in control, and there is no one to be blamed.  There is no escape from shopping. Yet retail design is neglected by architects, who strive to build enduring masterpieces like libraries and skyscrapers. In Rem Koolhaas’ text, JunkSpace he openly blames architects lack of understanding space for the “punishment of conditioned spaces.” He argues that architects have only been looking at the containers of space. “As if space itself is invisible, all theory for the production of space is based on an obsessive preoccupation with its opposites: substance and objects i.e. architecture”. While the conditioned spaces that Koolhaas calls JunkSpace like malls are pure interior. The content is space, not structure.

Turned inwards, these buildings are pure guts, they are visceral whether under or above ground. The exterior is no more than a sign, a wallpapered advertisement of what can be found inside. Like a space-station the mall epitomizes total isolation, an abstract world of exclusion where one can be safe from the dirty, the violent and the hot exterior. We will explore the experience of this isolation, and discover its possibilities. In an environment of total artificiality, there is also total control. This has both positive and negative sides, we will use this as an opportunity. We will embrace everything that is wrong with shopping malls, and everything that is right. We will question the logic of air-conditioning thousands of cubic meters, neglecting local culture, eradicating fragile historical centres and architects working in cultures they know nothing about. Formulating what is good about shopping malls is hard, the argument exists in the vocabulary of the ordinary and speaks mainly about aspects such as comfort, effortlessness and simplicity. We will together take on the task of creating a dictionary of Visceral Intricacies in order to create a rational terminology for experience based architecture such as malls. This dictionary project will start immediately after the first meeting and continue towards the end of the term when we will compile our new terminology and publish our e-dictionary of Visceral Intricacies.      

We will embrace the forgotten art of ornamentation as both semiotic communication device and augmentation technique. We will learn from thinkers and artists such as William Hogarth in order to understand the complex relevance of visual and spatial intricacy and complexity as an enhancer of experience.

We will use Rhino, Maya and Grasshopper to help generate our visions for our ornamental Visceral Intricacies and Maxwell Render and Unreal Game Engine to express and simulate them.

No shopping experience without commercial pragmatism. Your project will reach a high level of deliverability with a rational understanding of the commercial realism of your proposed experience. Your designed experience will find its way through possibilities and constraints. You will chose your underground site, client, structure and programs by knowing your designed experience commercial values to a specific market. A high level of technical resolution is expected as the project will be judged also on its build-ability and commercial prospects.  

By designing experiences rather than spaces or structures the psychological effect will be primary, the size, structure, lifespan, and construction secondary. You will aim to reach total control of your shopping environment. Anything you choose to bring down is a statement towards the experience that your design aims for.

1. The Capriccio.

To design complex visceral underground buildings means working from the inside. The mass between interior and exterior surfaces in malls are mysterious and unpredictable. Plans and sections might be superior in describing space, but lack information essential for describing the atmosphere of spaces designed for experience.

 Ancient of Rome, 1757, Giovanni Paolo Panini (172.1 x 229.9 cm)

We will begin our quest to design viscerally by learning from the European Capriccio and Veduta masters of the 17th and 18th century such as Giovanni Paolo Panini, Giovanni Battista Piranesi and Giovanni Antonio Canal (Canaletto). Their highly detailed large scale paintings and prints of fantasy spaces have influenced architects for centuries but seldom been analysed and readapted as design methods. We will dismantle the composition of the Capriccio and the Veduta in small spatial fragments such as, atmosphere, complexity, distance, possible choices presented to the viewer, as well as colour, light, movement of people, time etc. This process will then be repeated by observing a contemporary Capriccio. You will be supplied with a list of Capriccios to chose from.

In order to understand what is needed to build the scene in the Capriccio you will produce a digitally 3D model from which you can extract spatial characteristics and change point of view in the fictional space.

Christian Hidaka. Ocean Park 2. 2003

2. Experiential Research  

Before designing your experience you will choose one artificial environments built for or readapted as an extremely controlled space for experience; Disney Land/theme parks, casinos, hotels, love hotels, malls, spas, modern museums etc. and conduct a careful case study. (The chosen case study does not need to relate to the capriccio.)

Some of these examples have a clear and rational purpose such as hotels. In other cases the purpose is more unclear or hard to define, such as casinos and cultural theme parks. This first stage of the case study will explore both the spatial and atmospheric aspects as well as the produced effect of the experience. What exactly do you get out of walking through the gallery at the Venetian Macau for instance? It might be obvious but incredibly difficult to translate into usable terminology and methods in a design process.  Is it about pleasure, suspense, or excitement? And in that case, what is the difference?

Beijing National Aquatics Center in 2012. PTW Architects

Your case study will give you the ingredients for that specific experience including light, sound, colour, movement, ornamentation, theme, movement, staff etc. These parameters will give you insight into the complexity of experience design and help you to define your own experience.

Tropical Islands Resort Krausnick in Germany – the World’s Largest Indoor Water Park

3. Experiential Simulator

Utilizing your case studies you will now formulate a proposal for a spatial experience in the form of a manifesto.   Guest experience expert Keith Yates of Yates + Partners who designs experiences for large multinational clients will guide us in this process towards a clear and rational narrative that stands on its own and is deliverable within the commercial constraints of our goal, a shopping complex.

EON Icube Immersive Multi-User 3D Environment.

With your defined proposal for a spatial experience you will then construct a one to one simulator where your experience can be tested. Though a process of abstraction and reduction you will extract the essential elements of your experience and through radical experimentation create an “inhabitable” space where another person but yourself can be transported to your vision. Your Experiential Simulator will need to apply any means possible to reach a satisfying level of perceptive resolution. (Within rational economic reach) We will work with everything from 3D projectors to role play, from temperature changes to smoke machines and from water splashing to magic tricks.

Your device of smoke and mirrors will be your main communication device as your project takes shape during the rest of the term so it is very important that your simulator survives and develops until the final review when it will become your experiential translator to your underground world of Visceral Intricacies, an immersive representation, a portal to your vision.
4. Finding and Defining Commerce  

“Perhaps the beginning of the twenty-first century will be remembered as the point where the urban could no longer be understood without shopping.”
The Harvard Guide to Shopping, made by the Harvard Graduate School of Design and OMA in 2001.

Beijing shopping mall. Mosai

4.1 Finding Commerce
The deepest foundation in shopping malls is its commercial pragmatism. No costumers, no shops, no mall. The economy of shop to circulation ratio, the distribution of shops, the overall layout and connections and access to the city is absolutely critical to a mall. Before the planning of a shopping complex it is essential that all the commercial aspects have been carefully considered.  

You will in groups during our trip to Dubai do a case study of a mall. From this case study you will extract its commercial elements related to site, clients, size, shops, costumers etc. The aim is to understand how they are possible, who wants them, how do they happen and where do they happen? You will be supplied with a list of shopping complex in Dubai that all have a minimum of 60.000 m2 of shopping space.

Párizsi Udvar, shopping arcade, Budapest. 1913

4.2 Defining Commerce  
With your designed experience as guide you will now find its place, time and culture using your knowledge from the commercial case study. Who would be your costumers? Which culture and what kind of people are willing to go as far as you? And can they afford it?

A developer strives to develop a shopping mall that:
Is large enough to meet the demands of the shoppers in "his" trade area,
Leaves no excess demand that might encourage additional shopping centre development in his trade area, and
Reserves an area, by acquisition or by option, for expansion.
These basic points will help drive the commercial definition and all relate to a defined “trade area”.

Map of Montreal's Underground City (officially RÉSO or La Ville Souterraine in French)

DIG (site)
The first step in defining your projects commercial possibilities will be choosing your underground site. You will be offered a choice of three different sites all located in urban areas where underground construction is realistic geologically and climatically. Your site will have a buildable area of minimum 60.000 m2 which you will need to respond to.

When you have your site you will define customer groups, choose shops and content. Consider content out of normal shops such as; restaurants, hotels, cinema, gym, spa, bars, nightclubs, library, convention centre, museums, schools, theatre, theme park, temple.

5. Spatialisation
You now have all the visceral aspects of your experience and deep understanding in the commercial pragmatics of your proposal concerning the site and the costumers. Most importantly, you also have an atmospheric and spatial experience defined in great detail.

We have worked from inside out and from front to back. Your proposal now needs its structure. By utilizing your site report from point 4 you will quickly understand which building technology will be deployable and realistic in order to realize the underground experience.  You now need to organize general operation such as logistics, access, signs, staff, energy, recycling etc. as well as ventilation and lighting.

The process will lead you to question the horizontal movement of conventional malls, the closed shop space logic, the street layout etc and give you an entirety unique building. Will you let daylight in? Will the costumers enter directly from above or through long tunnels? Your knowledge regarding shopping complexes will at this stage be rich enough for you to take these decisions with clarity and confidence.

During this process your Experiential Simulator will be crucial. We will together aim to find a productive way in which it can become a design tool for your project and not only a form of representation. We will continue our ambition until the end of working from inside out and let the plan and section grow with the experience as he primary.

Your experience will take shape in the form of intricate ornamentation, delicate lighting, precise acoustics, circulation full of suspense and fantastical effects soaking in deep and sharp experience.  

Your Commercial report and site report will steer your design to a buildable proposal at a resolution expected of a fourth year student including a clear strategy for construction methods, construction and operation. You will also be expected to produce detailed plans, sections and axonometric drawings. (Elevations do not apply to underground shopping complexes.) Your proposal must be minimum 60.000 m2, exists 90% underground but can have any form, depth and length.  

Carl Fredrik Valdemar Hellberg. AA dip(hons) RIBA II 
August 2012

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