CULTURE

Shopping malls dress to impress

Last year was a landmark in the history of Athenian commerce. New mammoth shopping centers, located along the city’s main highways as well as in the downtown district, gained popularity because they catered to changes in both society and consumer habits. Shoppers have turned their attention from relatively limited family-run neighborhood businesses to these gigantic shopping centers whose enormous accumulation of brand names has the power to attract customers for longer periods. The architecture behind these ventures has been a key aspect of the entire package. Apart from enhancing the shopping experience, architectural design has also been summoned for solutions to complex problems. Considering the limited attention to good architecture in Greece, and the field’s confined social role, it would be senseless to have high expectations in shopping center design. But we shouldn’t be too pessimistic. Little changes here and there eventually add up to larger change overall, and the indications are promising. Despite some reservations in local architectural circles over changes to the Attica shopping center in downtown Athens, the initiative taken by Piraeus Bank, the owner of the Army Pension Fund building that houses the Attica shopping complex, to hire two leading architects in the building’s refurbishment deserves commendation. The project was originally assigned to architect Stelios Agiostratitis before Yiannis Kizis was handed the reins. To be totally fair, even the new building housing The Mall, whose sheer scale and character do not allow for certain details, has some commendable aspects. The aforementioned examples are both new buildings that indicate architecture is gradually cementing its place, even when it comes to the design of shopping centers. The architect Alexandros Tobazis has designed a new commercial center that is being built on Kifissias Avenue, not far from the Danaos cinema, in the city’s Ambelokipi district. Tobazis has opted for glass and metal as the building’s main components. It will be interesting to see how his style of bioclimatic architecture blends with the building’s intended purpose. Moving away from the city center, and toward to the airport’s commercial district, a second Factory Outlet discount superstore is currently under construction. It was designed by Haris Bougadelis. Though the building activity is still at an early stage, the wave-like metal sheets being used to dress the exterior already make the project highly distinguishable. Incidentally, Tobazis, an established architect here with a leading role in development, and Bougadelis, a popular newcomer whose office is one of the Greek capital’s busiest, first crossed paths several years ago for refurbishment work on the Athens Hilton before the 2004 Olympics.