ACROSS | The European Retail Real Estate Magazine

Opinion

The Italian Restyling Challenge

“Best-practice cases of restyling small- or medium-sized malls were aimed at improving the quality and well-being of the internal habitat, the quality of light, air, and perceptive factors.” Luca Ciaffoni, Chief architect in ccdstudio in Teramo. Image: CCD Studio

According to the French anthropologist Marc Augé, if a space can be defined as relational, historical, and concerned with identity, then it is a “place”—if not, it is a “non-place.”

By Luca Ciaffoni

His famous 1992 essay therefore asserted that a series of modern spaces were “non-places,” according to his studies, because the only relational possibility they allowed was with oneself. Large market spaces (like shopping centers and supermarkets) were members of this “dumb trade” category, which, along with rapid transit infrastructure, are expressive of only a solitary identity.

Almost 25 five years after his publication, the lives experiences in the various structures born on the edges of cities during an expansive phase, as well as ones located within consolidated conurbations themselves, shows a different reality that is far more complex than Augé accepted. Many malls have contributed to the development of fringe areas that had had only deficient infrastructure and services, providing essential ingredients for building a social life within an urban setting that had yet to develop otherwise. The people who lived in these urban contexts, characterized by the total absence of alternative social spaces, have come to recognize mall spaces for more than just their commercial appeal. They are indeed places—ones able to foster conviviality and togetherness.

Some data from a specialized magazine in 2015 indicate that “Today, the Italian trade appears dominated by facilities below 40,000 sq m. Of 756 malls, 82% are BB, B, and C zones, […] which suffer from high but stable vacancy rates (ranging from 12.2% to almost 20% in those within the C band, versus 2.7% AAA-band structure and 6-7% for those in the AA category). These are centers that must find a new way to run. It’s easy to think that some of these malls have no option but to close, but there are opportunities for many of them to build on past success and return to being profitable” . This is the outline of the challenge that many of these malls are experiencing.

In some cases, their battle was won not only via different commercial choices. Another significant success factor was a restyling able to boost the quality of spaces within the business scope. This is about more than cosmetic changes meant to upgrade an old style with contemporary decorative motifs. Best-practice cases of restyling small- or medium-sized malls were aimed at improving the quality and well-being of the internal habitat, the quality of light, air, and perceptive factors that make up the kinesthetic perception of the environments in which we live. Such efforts were successful because they followed from a desire to make these spaces livable—beyond mere commercial attractiveness.

Best practice examples feature that aspect scholars like Augé claimed was lacking—and which managers and operators of retail real estate unfortunately often viewed as secondary: the amazing and unexpected ability of these spaces to embody a “sense of place” within many peripheral urban realities. The key is that design should not just be used for its own aesthetic purposes, but rather to evoke and better nourish those expressive features of architecture, reinforce the social vocation, and exalt the capacity to transform simple business spaces into something more akin to “places.”

Follow ACROSS

Download

fb-art 150

Share this article
Opinion

Fortune Favors the Bold

What do European retail real estate leaders think about the future? ICSC Europe recently brought them together in Salzburg (Austria) for the annual CEO Forum to find out. Hosted by SES Spar CEO Marcus Wild, it was an insight into what’s on the minds of those at the forefront of the industry.

Fortune Favors the Bold

What do European retail real estate leaders think about the future? ICSC Europe recently brought them together in Salzburg (Austria) for the annual CEO Forum to find out. Hosted by SES Spar CEO Marcus Wild, it was an insight into what’s on the minds of those at the forefront of the industry.

Kiev’s mega malls

Ukraine is the one of the biggest markets in Europe with 42.5 million consumers. After a steep fall in 2014/2015, the country’s economy has started a gradual recovery.

More Effective than Google

Infabode is positioning itself as an information hub for the global real estate market. In an interview with ACROSS, Founder and CEO Matt Partridge explains how the European shopping center industry benefits from the platform.

“Virtuality is a magnet word”

Il Centro in Milan, Bonarka City Center in Krakow, and Westfield in London stand out from the mass of European malls, says Árpád Török, CEO of TriGranit. The latter in particular because of its focus on virtual reality.

Focus on Visitors and their Comfort

Many criteria must be fulfilled for a shopping center to function nowadays. The experts on ACROSS’s Advisory Board responded to a survey about criteria for success and named their favorite malls.