Shopping malls have largely surpassed their original commercial function. Besides representing the primary scene of western consumer culture, malls have been invaded by the unexpected uses people have made of them. At the same time, mall developers also propose alternative uses of space, transforming the shopping center from a purely commercial space into a place where meetings and socialization are not only possible but also expected. If malls are ‘everywhere’ in global cities, and they can include all aspects of city life in them, it becomes important to discuss the conflicts surrounding their arrival and localization within different urban contexts. This paper looks at the case of the La Florida Municipality, a lowermiddle class and highly populated area in the city of Santiago de Chile, home to two large malls. These two malls are located only 800 meters from one another. The arrival of both malls has transformed a mostly suburban area into an alternative and thriving downtown for the southern part of the city. How was this transformation possible? How did a couple of malls generate an urban downtown? I argue that the transformation cannot be explained by examining both structures in an isolated fashion. Contradicting the weight of mainstream literature on the subject, which describes malls as enclosed spaces that neglect urban life (Judd, 1995; Sarlo, 1994), I contend that in order to understand what happened in the area, it is necessary to analyze the ways in which local residents and mall visitors have connected these commercial structures with a physical and symbolic network. By doing this, they are either turning the once isolated roads leading to the malls into pedestrian streets, or are following alternative ways of appropriating both public and private spaces in the surrounding areas.
|Keywords:||Malls, Symbolic Appropriation of Private Spaces, Reconfiguration, Urban Renewal, Suburbia, Pseudo-public Spaces|
Graduate Student, Research Assistant, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile