Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Malls and Pubs

ION @ Orchard Road

Once I read about a traveller in an Irish town, puzzled by the fact that he couldn't see a single soul of the local residents anywhere. He then went into a local pub to find the entire population there.

We don't have that many pubs and pubbing is not the usual past time of an average Singaporean. But shopping malls here share the same importance of a pub, to a certain extent. We have a 4 million population on this 700 square metre large city-island. But you don't find this island especially crowded on the roads or in any public areas until you pop into any of the shopping malls where you will find trails after trails of people heading towards the modern mecca of consumerism. That is where you can find the bulk of the population. Shopping malls are equivalent of pubs to the Irish and English population I suppose. Malls used to center at Orchard Road but for the past one and half decade, there is a fierce outspread of malls to the neighbourhoods (residential areas) on the west and the north of the island. These neighbourhood malls have taken over the traditional role of city centres where local residents used to go to for their daily needs. There is such a huge infestation of malls in the neighbourhoods to such an extent that one can find one shopping mall for every two MRT stations (tube stations) and some of them are not small in terms of scale. Malls are trendy looking and are havens on a hot day with free air-conditioning and not to mention, the endless materialistic temptations.

In spite of the widespread of malls across the entire island, new ones are still appearing each year and one bigger than the other in size. This year saw the completion of ION at Orchard Road and Iluma at Bugis. There must be a saturated point to the amount our population can spend! And not forgetting the rents of each retail shop and restaurant paying into the pockets of property companies and fattening their cheeks!

It just happened that the dental clinic that we visit is located at this mall in the far west. We planned to visit the Art Museum after the dental appointment but we foiled our plans after seeing the scale of the mall and ended up checking out the shops and restaurants thereafter. This mall has undergone certain expansion the last time I went and this time, there is a further expansion. It is a mammoth labyrinth of shops and restaurants! And it is here that I discovered green tea kit kats at the Japanese Alley which is an area cluttered with Japanese restaurants. This is an epitome of our preference for Japanese food. Though not statistically proven, I am sure that we have more Japanese restaurants than Chinese ones.

Japanese Alley at Jurong Point

@Vivo City
I enjoyed the architecture and the space allowed in the building. You wouldn't fail to notice the irregular contour lines both on the outside and the inside of the mall, which seems like an attempt to depict wave lines in order to blend into its surrounding. Vivo City sits at the southern tip of the main island facing the sea.

Antoni Gaudi came into my mind, one who defied straight lines and refused to use any single straight line in any of his architect and furniture designs. Vivo City has lots of balconies that spanned over irregular angles, imitating the flow of currents and also unexpected space allocation at certain corners. I appreciate the spacious walkway and the tall ceiling of this mall, having grown up in a country where every inch of space and land are calculated in terms of monetary returns and therefore, I am used to shopping in malls that made me feel I am packed in sardine cans.

Being my second visit to this mall that is located in the southern tip of Singapore, I discovered something new: the pools and grasslands at the rooftop of the building brought a refreshing touch and concept to a shopping mall. It looks exactly like a ground level but it is actually sitting at the top of the building, facing the sea, just like a promenade. But I must say that the sea views have very little to offer as the port on the right scars the serenity whilst the offshore island Sentosa (an overly-enthusiastic developed island targetting tourists' pockets that lacks of a soul and an identity of its own) looks better if it were to disappear this minute. On fair weather condition, one could really have a picnic on this roof top and some people actually did!

Pools and grasslands on the roof top

An English colleague once asked me whether there were any shopping malls where one could buy clothes and cosmetics in Singapore. I thought it was an odd question to start with and how I wished I could tell her that we were living in a jungle no more but in a jungle of shopping malls instead.