JULY - SEPTEMBER 2002
VOL. VIII NO. 3
MALLS worldwide follow a standard formula; they must be located near a main thoroughfare, they should have ample parking, and there should be anchor stores that will act as the initial crowd drawers. These anchors are usually a department store or a supermarket. In the Philippines, National Bookstore is considered an anchor establishment because of its popular appeal; so are shops that sell high-recall brands.
If there are two major anchors, they are placed at opposite ends of the mall, thereby making shoppers walk from one end to the other. In so doing, they pass by other stores lined up on both sides of the passageway between the anchors. The idea is that the shoppers may stop and take a look at the merchandise offered by these smaller stores.
A mall usually has few windows, which could pose a problem for shoppers with claustrophobia. But there is ample artificial lighting, ensuring that the mall would be awash in perpetual sunshine, even during Typhoon Signal No.3 (provided there is no power outage of course). There are few visible clocks, the better to have the shopper forget the passing of the hours. Outside, the mall often looks like a huge box and has the aesthetic appeal of one. But the massive and windowless walls are thought to make the malls highly visible to motorists and passersby. One commercial center executive also explains the uniform bland look of a rival company's malls this way: "To be able to expand that fast, you need to have a product that you can easily roll out."
In recent years, though, local malls have begun to get spruced up. Some have also tried to shed their generic look by splashing their walls with color and tweaking their indoors and outdoors this way and that. Architect Felino Palafox Jr. says one of his firm's latest projects, the Robinsons Starmills in Pampanga, features 52 colors "to reflect the colors of Pampanga" and its famous Christmas lantern. He also says it sports an angled roof and not a flat one as a homage to Mt. Arayat.
"Provided our clients will let us, we try to 'bell' the box," says Palafox. "We break the huge box into smaller elements…make it less massive."
These days, more malls are encouraging ground-floor restaurants to drag chairs and tables out on the pavement and have customers dine al fresco. And instead of having all the stores looking inward, there are now more shops oriented toward the street. This, says Palafox, encourages "better dialogue between the stores and the streets," thereby making malls less of a social cocoon and more a part of the surrounding community.
Ayala's Alabang Town Center, lying just outside the gates of the developer's posh residential village, is considered to be one mall that was able successfully break out of the box. Looking more like a sprawling Mediterranean villa than a commercial center, the ATC features an outside courtyard and the open (albeit with protective translucent roofing) Corte de las Palmas arcade of shops and restaurants aside from indoor shopping area. The feel of the mall is more laid-back, in keeping with its being in a residential area.
The ATC actually began small, and then gradually expanded as the surrounding grew. Winnie Nazareth, an assistant vice president at Ayala Land Inc., says they take their time planning their projects.
"We're very conscious of the lifestyle of each market and how we would blend into the environment," she says. "Hindi kami basta sasalpaklang, pinag-aaralan talaga namin (We don't just suddenly appear, we do our homework). We want to be seen, as much as possible, as if we've been there for a long time — we develop over time, hindi 'yung parang nambulabog na lang (and not as if we caused a disturbance)."
A mother of three, Nazareth says she does take her children to the mall. But, she says, they usually go out of town on weekends.