Ulargui Arquitectos

Shopping complex . Mount Lu

Ulargui Arquitectos

What does a brand mean? What’s the actual experience when we want what is fashionable? What’s the image of a shop nowadays?

Our project comes from a process of questions and answers. It’s impossible to separate the concept of the project from the meaning of what we are looking for. Globalization has produced a big change in the products we consume. Most of them are manufactured in the same area, sometimes in the same factory and most of them come from a similar design. We can see it with the smart phones. More and more their screens, sizes, materials, batteries, cameras are coming from the same manufacturers and are assembled sometimes in the same factory. Just a few differences separate their design from one to the other: a little bit thinner, a rounder corner… even most of them have the same software! Clothes, furniture, devices, everything has become only one product. What do we have left? Just a brand. Brand as a guarantee, as identification, as exclusivity. That’s why the logo is on all the things we buy. We want to show what we have bought. We want to identify ourselves with the brand we like.
A day in a high-end retail shopping centre expresses the contemporary ceremony of identification between objects and people. The act of buying is the clearest deification of how our consumer society identifies itself. The logo is the message, the logo is the point, the logo is the meaning.

Imagine people buying in a great street. All of them will be carrying their bags from different stores. The more they carry, the better quality the commercial proposal is. Bags have become the symbol of a brand and the representation of a shop. Packaging represents, without doubt, the product. Companies have invested more and more money to give it a better quality. How much time does a salesperson spend wrapping our shopping?
A shopping day ends with the group of bags at home. All of them are well done, with beautiful colours and with the logos standing out. If we put them in the right position, depending the time and the movements we have done, we could describe the experience of the day just moving them all together. This group of bags has the memory of our journey, they represent what we have after a shopping day!
The project is born from the simple action of blowing up the scale of the most remarkable object of the current shopping experience: the bags. We understand the flowers in the same way. All the ground floor will be an explosion of trees and flowers and we translate the scale of “flower theme” as well: big flowers will be painted on the buildings paying attention to the symbol of the city. Imagine people buying and carrying bags with the same image as the building. Flowers will be also visible on the bags, reminding them that this shopping centre is connected to a world-class Ocean Garden.
Robert Venturi and Philip Johnson proposed in 1984 a building with the form of a big apple in the middle of Times Square, just in the centre of the actual “big apple”. Venturi’s 1966 book, “Complexity and contradiction in Architecture” had questioned the orthodoxies of Modernism. In 1999, Franck Gehry’s “binoculars building” for an advertising agency in Los Angeles, built a massive sculpture of binoculars that function as both a pedestrian and a car entrance. What we propose is a convection between objects and buildings, belonging to a long cultural chain that started in Venturi’s 1972 book, “Learning from Las Vegas,” which celebrated the idea of buildings as signs.

We don’t want to look at a “European atmosphere” as a direct image, as a question of style, choosing if the buildings have to be in French, British, Italian or Spanish. We are looking for an outstanding image, totally new, that could be remembered all over the world. Beauty understood as a great balance among sign, message and commercial values. Is there nowadays a better and more sophisticated beauty than the one which came from fashion?
This is not against a pleasant and enjoyable experience for visitors. We keep the European urban concept from their old city centres creating pedestrian pathways between buildings. The outside spaces will be a series of small squares with trees, benches and flowers framed by powerful commercial facades.
In our proposal there won’t be any rear facades. All the buildings will be surrounded and crossed-allowing a continuous experience from the outside to the inside. The facades will have 100% actual value. Everything will be profitable.
From the streets the access will be everywhere. You will be able to cross the plot creating your own way. There is a main street in the middle. It sprawls small squares and paths giving the opportunity to extend the commercial activity outside. As in a medieval city, you will be able to find big, intermediate and small spaces that will give commercial value everywhere.
Notice we are talking about experiences, not only functionality. If MOLEWA has to aspire to be a new leisure and cultural centre of activities in the area, we don’t have to talk only about the project as a city for the local residents but also as a remarkable and attractive focus of attraction for visitor population. People have to love the place, to remember it, to desire to come back.

We divide the program in thirty buildings. Two of them include the ramps for the garage and are signed with a different image, including most density of painted flowers on their facades as a reference. These two buildings also include pedestrian access to the parking, public washrooms for the centre, offices and flower shops. The ground floor gets a slope rising from 0.00 meters to +1.00 meters leaving room for an undercroft parking. The lowest level of the parking is 1.50 meters over the water table. By using this solution it’s possible to avoid reaching the water table and keeping a pedestrian continuity with the city, taking cars out of the groundfloor.
The rest of the buildings have the possibility of accommodating according to the commercial strategy. In any event, the ground floor has to be a continuous commercial space without any interruption. Objects in the shops have to be placed keeping in mind that visitors will be passing through. Two doors opposite each other will create a commercial pathway in which visitors will be able to pass through the different buildings.
There is a wide range of buildings in order to give a more potential offer. There are different commercial surfaces, from 250m2 to 650m2 in an only one building or, if we think in a multi-brand shop, you can rent spaces from 120 m2. Each building has its own elevator, stairs and private washrooms. The storage space is above the ground floor, keeping it free of any interruption. We are thinking of shops with different floors, creating a space experience where visitors will enjoy outside views.
The ground floor is a continuous sequence of squares with flowers and trees. If the skyline will give a powerful commercial value for the brands, the ground floor, with its colourful and aromatic atmosphere, will be the expression of a natural experience.
(All the brand logos shown in this proposal are registered brands and the use of them it’s only illustrative)

Proposal for the MOLEWA International Competition.
Shopping complex in Mount Lu. China.

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