Shopping Town Overvecht

Shopping malls.jpg

If you have seen Romero's zombie movie "Dawn of the Dead", you will remember how the survivors of the epidemy of zombies shelter in an area of a big shopping mall. They gradually conquer this space from the zombies that keep on trying to get in the mall because "some kind of instinct, a memory of what they used to do. This was an important place in their lifes", says one of the characters. The film has been interpreted like a criticism on consumer society because of this struggle for the territory of the shopping mall.

As the philosopher Jaime Cuenca, our guest at the Zombie Seminar in Barakaldo, explained, we can make a very clear comparison between the zombies and the citizen of the consumer society.

We are taken into a constant construction of our identity through the infinite choice consumer society is offering us, where all options are possible except the one of not consuming.

The idea of the shopping mall as a shelter is not new. Anette Baldauf, a sociologist specializing in city development, consumer culture, and feminism explains it at legth in the article 'Shopping Town USA: Victor Gruen, the Cold War, and the Shopping Mall'.

Here is a quote:

Between the mid-1940s and 1957, in the course of the emergence of a radically bi-polar world, the collective morale of the American nation turned from self-affirming celebration of the end of the Second World War into anxious expectation of total war. The common fear of the Third World War was often compared with a ‘low-grade fever that the nation could not shake’. In a context so much saturated by fear, the ‘philosophy of containment’ offered an instrument for empowering control as well as for the continual feeding of this collective fear. The hermetically sealed shopping centre delivered this philosophy with a concrete symbol that combined these two functions: inwardly, in other words to the shoppers, the centre signalled safety, shelter, and retreat. It provided the ‘uprooted’ resident of the rapidly growing suburban landscape with a sense of meaning and an affective anchor. Outwardly, to the rival Soviet Union and to communist sympathisers, the shopping centre signalled the superiority of capitalism; it stood as material proof of the principles of social egalitarianism and for the freedom of choice inherent in consumerism.

Comments

edward borowsky (not verified) Thu, 01/01/1970 - 02:00

Shopping Mall Boska, Banja Luka,
Bosnia and Herzegovina, 1978

In 1969 big earthquake shook Banja Luka and one of the major landmarks, residential building called Titanic (obtained the name because of it’s length), build short while after the Second World War, suffered a great loss. There were several casualties and most of the building was destroyed. In 1978, on the same spot, new department store Boska was built.
The name Boska derives from the regional part of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is called Bosanska Krajin.

Boska was built as a cutting edge department store and today it is one of the last existing shopping malls (not yet privatized) that belonged to the chain of the Yugoslav department stores. It is concrete mega structure inspired by the American (shopping mall) architecture from 60’. It was designed without any direct formal relationship to the local heritage and it was part of the larger project called City Centre 1 that was commissioned after the earthquake.

Today this place is like a time vortex, absolutely everything remains the same as it was 30 years ago, though there are few shoppers and very little goods. Most of the citizens of Banja Luka speak about Boska as if it is a ghost.
But on the other hand, people who still work in Boska refer to it with lots of passion and happily remember the “glory days” when the department store was fully functional.

Boska is going trough an illness that has infected most of the former Eastern block. The introduction of private ownership used to be almost impossible under communist rule and today privatisation of the giant combines is agonizing process that badly effects lot of people.
It is matter of months if not even days before Boska completely disappears.

Ruud (not verified) Thu, 01/01/1970 - 02:00

In another consumer paradise, Japan, there is a big shopping mall culture as well. In Tokyo you have SUNSHINE CITY, a 60 stores high buiding (it has one of the fastest elevators in the world).
What is interesting is that it is built on the same ground where a prison once stood. In the past the 6 biggest warcriminals were trialed here. General Tojo, de man die Japan min of meer in de oorlog dreef, is hier opgehangen.
Japan is known for its facelifting abilities regarding history. It doesn't make a big thing in tearing old buildings down for the sake of the new. But the idea of a mall on historical loaded ground makes me curious to the history of american malls.
And what is the history of the Overvecht shopping mall groud?

Ruud



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