INDA 2541411: Architectural Design IV / Fall 2012 / 
Carl Fredrik Valdemar Hellberg
Tuesdays and Fridays 13:00-16:30

Experience Driven Architecture of 
New Underground Shopping Malls

Fourth Year Studio at Chulalongkorn University Bangkok
International Program in Design & Architectures

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.