Until today, I'd never really given a mall much thought, the way it looks and feels. I mean why would I? if you've seen one mall, you've seen them all right? Wrong. Yesterday I visited the very new Central Embassy in Bangkok and was totally mesmerized by what I reckon is architectural design beyond anything I've experienced. If you think I was stunned, Lateral Paul was almost hyperventilating. Amanda Levete Architects (AL_A) London have created a masterpiece with this airy retail and hotel space (the latter is still being completed), situated in the former gardens of the British Embassy on Ploen Chit Road in Bangkok. Admittedly I know very little about architecture but my heart races when I see this type of creativity, design and innovation (I had the same reaction to Tadao Ando's mall in Omotesando in Tokyo by the way).
We've all been impressed by malls and glitzy plazas like Galleries Lafayette (Paris), the Bullring (Birmingham), Siam Paragon and CentralWorld (Bangkok), Omotesando Hills (Tokyo) and even Cape Town's V&A Waterfront on the Harbour's edge, all amazing buildings in their own right and with their own signatures but truly, Central Embassy takes first place for me. Of course it's the newest on the global mall block and thus draws on the very latest in digital design and all that jazz and architectural blah blah. We hung around for hours, walking around slowly, level by level, admiring everything from the considered alive open spaces, light wells and skylights, to the sculptures, curves and lines of the escalators and banisters. Just gorgeous.
So whilst malls are neither here nor there in my universe I'll definitely return to this one, to absorb the beauty of the space if nothing else. My quest to perpetually acquire stuff is long since a thing of the past – at 50 I've come to embrace the Less-Is-More philosophy and I'd trade vintage shirt hunting at a street market in BK or a second hand store back home any day. I have enough Massimo Dutti and Paul Smith threads to last a lifetime and edging past a doorman with a superior attitude and a look of disdain on his face at Hermes, Vuitton or Prada is just a drag.
So then what's in a mall trawl for me? I want to be in a beautiful space and go where I can browse at stores with incredibly designed product (like the retro industrial and bluecollar work wear at Levi's or a concept store at Central) and then sit myself down and have a superb coffee in chic, cool surroundings like the Rocket Cafe in Siwilai at Central Embassy. This look-don't -buy approach is clearly not the objective of those creating these insanely beautiful shopping environments – they're made to attract well heeled feet that are ultimately attached to the black credit cards of the Big Spender and certainly they do achieve that. Good for them. Good for me. I'll mall it my way.
Central Embassy -> 546/4 Phloen Chit, Lumphini, Pathum Wan, Bangkok, only a 5 minute walk from the BTS Phloen Chit. www.centralembassy.com