Transforming the Non-Place into a Place

Are all shopping malls alike?

When we walk around a shopping mall, we always see the same brands; most malls are very similar, like clones, and their design patterns repeat themselves. This is globalization. Novelties and advertising campaigns reach us immediately.

We buy online without having to go anywhere, just using our keyboard. More and more, the online world meets our objective materials needs.

Why go to shopping malls? What can we do to make them different?

When we travel, we do it to have different experiences, absorb an environment we can’t find in our city, and see a new building or one that catches our attention. We also do it to discover a landscape, enjoy the feeling of nature, or do an individual or group sport.

We love to wander around the city; we like things that we only experience once, unique things. We want to enjoy them again and again. We love to meet in the square, have a beer, meet on the street with other football fans. We like the uniqueness of spaces; a street is different in Madrid or Copenhagen.

We also love to share it and communicate it.

Therefore, what drives us to go to a place is related to leisure, sports, shopping, restaurants, places, senses, and sharing with others; in a few words, the experience.

When shopping, we also need to feel and check the textures, sizes, materials, production processes, and so on. This helps us make a purchasing decision.

Most shopping malls are located on the outskirts of cities, close to a communication hub, in “non-places,” areas of recent growth without identity, neutral and undefined spaces. But once the commercial activity arises, this relationship, experience and sharing is generated. Our work is to turn these “non-places” into “places.”


Suburbs also need urban living rooms!

Let’s look at the traditional city, the relational space where uses are developed and life occurs. Let’s explore the elements of the city, the solutions for the integration of activities, the corners that move us.

Let’s work with the elements and special features of the place and shopping mall, the “genius loci,” searching for a connection with clients and citizens in the elements that link the mall to uniqueness. That’s the path to follow.

Continuity with the urban environment, commercial activity, integration of tertiary, residential, and leisure uses, environmental sustainability, and experience are the driving forces behind shopping malls.

Creating urban spaces that are the continuation of historical centers, memorable spaces where we can identify ourselves, contemplate it all, and feel rooted, providing unique feelings that make us reminisce and come back.

The on-off retail revolution we are immersed in is inextricably linked to the city; it is a powerful regeneration tool of the physical space.

Catalyzing, creating, recreating, and stitching together the city, both in historical centers and in suburbs, is the new role played by shopping malls.

Avenues, streets, squares, gardens, parks are the references of the shopping mall: “THE CITY.”


The example of X-Madrid

X-Madrid is a unique project in the retail world. It is a shopping mall on the outskirts of Madrid, abandoned during the crisis, and located in a commercially saturated area. Therefore, a transformation with an alternative content is proposed: the “anti-mall.”

Everything related to the leisure and retail of urban tribes and millennials can be found in this center to create a special place with character where leisure and experience play a structuring and captivating role.

Cars, motorbikes, skateboards, bicycles, urban sports, shows, and a food court find their space in this unique location. This regional project is home to graffiti artists, performances, and alternative festivals.

The original building is transformed into a linear street, between a covered plaza for events and a space for experiences and leisure to the south, the urban beach. A small three-story city with bicycle and skateboard access devoid of excess will become an icon of urban cultures and recycling. Experimentation and renovation are part of its DNA.

X-Madrid is the “street” of alternative experiences: Alcorcón’s new living room.

Main Image: X-Madrid, interior street, Madrid, 2019, B+R Arquitectos Asociados. Photo © Roberto Lara