New malls are small towns within a town that redefine the way of life and the city’s lifestyle

Every Saturday, huge suburban malls, retail parks and entertainment centers are the scene of demonstrations in favor of a way of life which was unknown, at least in Greece, until just a few years ago. Ordinary Greeks are living their own «Greek dream» which in many respects resembles the «American dream» of 50 years ago. Family outings (mostly on Saturdays, and only the laws prevent them on Sundays) are like an invasion of housing goods and clothing stores that take up most people’s free time, given the time-consuming process involved. All of us, in one way or another, are part of this culture that is not only consumer but cultural. New urban character Greeks now prefer visiting the new retail park at the airport or the even newer one in the Faliron Delta than going out into the countryside or to a museum. The priorities of the average person have become clear: All this modern, mobile culture that is taking people from the small private universe of the apartment building to the chaotic public space of the mall, from suburbia to exurbia, is happening in a way that has become part of the style and atmosphere of the city. The new urban landmarks are not a Greek version of the Tate Modern but a «park» that sells cheap sofa-beds, electrical appliances, computers or sportswear. Also on sale are pre-packaged meals or a movie in an environment that is recognizable and architecturally functional. With few exceptions, such as Harry Bougadellis’s architectural firm in a new building at the airport retail park, most of the structures are in the big-box style. Whether in the authentic language of bare utility, such as the box malls on Vouliagmenis or Kifissias avenues, or faced with granite, they present the needed illusion of short-lived luxury. Although ugliness is what characterizes these new landmarks, one has the sense that it results from the necessity of planting them in a huge asphalt parking lot. On the other hand, the noisy crowds, the buzz of public space, which was missing from cities for some decades, softens the aesthetic disadvantages and balances them out with a sense of urban coexistence.

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